Mark ( on October 26th, 2010

I bet you were wondering when and/or if you’d see me writing about the Sculpted Rocking Chair build again here at the blog.  Well, wait no longer, at long last I’m back at it and writing about my progress.

In reality, I have been doing some smaller bits of work on the project as time has progressed.  I just have not had the time to write about it here.  Now, with some distractions out of the way and more time to send in the shop, I’m back at it with a vengeance!

The next step in the process was to tackle the headrest.  If you’ll recall after coopering the headrest it had been in hibernation for a while now.  There actually is a fair amount of work to be done with it before permanently attaching it to the chair.  However, as you can probably guess before doing that work I needed to make a jig to help facilitate the process!

The jig is actually a very useful one for cutting circles and/or arcs at the band saw.  You can see from the pictures that the jig consists of a base with a movable arm that holds a dowel pivot point.  In addition, for this task of cutting an arc along the front and rear faces of the headstock there is also a temporary carrier board with some scrap L-shaped supports to hold the piece while cutting.

The headstock arcs are cut using a 29 ½” radius on the jig.  I attached the rough piece to the supports with double stick tape and cut the rear arc first.  After that cut was made I shifted the carrier board so that the finished thickness of the headstock would be 1 ¼”.  I then cut the front face of the headstock again with the same 29 ½” radius.  You can see that on the second cut the band saw blade busted out from the piece and left me with a little extra clean-up to do.  I cleaned up the band saw marks with a sanding disk on the angle grinder for the coarser areas and then followed up with the random orbit sander at 120-grit.

With the front and rear arcs completed the next step was to trim the ends of the headstock to fit between the rear legs on the chair.  This was done with the same six-degree angle jig I made earlier to cut the rear legs.  This time it was used along with the sled on the table saw.  This was actually a bit of a tricky cut in that the front of the headstock wants to drop forward as you complete the cut.  I did this cutting in stages and crept up on the fit.  The six-degrees was close but not exact and that, coupled with some variance in the rear leg angles and flexing of the legs themselves, rendered a bit of fine tuning with a hand plane before a good fit was obtained.  To be honest, this was probably one of the more tricky parts of the build so far.  In the pictures you can see this process in various stages of completion.  What’s not shown is the drilling of holes in the headstock through the pre-existing holes in the rear legs to hold the headstock.  This was done with a long 1/8” drill bit (because I could not find a long 5/32” bit locally).  I then had to remove the headstock and enlarge the holes to 5/32” with a shorter bit.  While the headstock was mounted in the chair, I made marks to indicate where the tops of the rear legs and transitions into the legs were located.

The marks that I made helped with the next step of drawing arcs along the top and bottom of the headstock.  These were done with a shop-made trammel set at 41”.  I adjusted the far trammel point (with a fixed radius) until I was hitting the marks on each side of the headstock as I swung the arcs and drew them once it was hitting both marks.  These arcs marked the location of the next two cuts on the band saw.

With the headstock arcs cut I moved on to marking and drilling the headstock for the back braces.  I made a jig to locate each hole using those already routed into the seat.  These were evenly spaced across the headstock.  The holes were drilled in a two-step process at the drill press using a 25/64” drill bit.  The first hole for each ws drilled straight and the second hole was drilled at six degrees toward the front of the headstock.  This extra clearance allows the flexible back braces to move freely when the sitter leans against them.

Because there is a large radius along the top of the headrest I then made one last cut at the band saw.  This was to chamfer the top edge of the headrest so that I did not have as much material to grind away when shaping.  I did this by tilting the band saw table to 45 degrees and using a single point fence to help support the headstock while cutting.

In the final picture you can see the headstock after some rough shaping with the angle grinder and random orbit sander.  The headstock is not yet glued to the chair – it’s just held in place temporarily with screws.  Once all of the back brace processing is competed the headstock can be glued to the chair.

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6 Responses to “Sculpted Rocking Chair: Cutting and rough shaping the headrest”

  1. I enjoyed your article on shaping the backrest. I started my first chair about the same time you did. I found the headrest shaping — especially the radius cut to be challenging. Hal did not document that in the video, but the radius jig created the curve so you did not have a lot of sanding.

    I am not an expert, but have managed to complete two chairs over the last 18 months. The second chair took about one third the time that the first one did.

    Again, your articles on the Hal Taylor chair have been most informative.

  2. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for the note.

    For the radius cuts it was definitely worth the time and effort to make the band saw jig (plus it’s useful for other things at the band saw). I found that the angled cuts were more problematic to get a good fit. Probably a combination of some flex in the rear legs and a slight deviation of the six degrees when the rear legs were glued to the seat caused some handwork for the fitting. I just wanted to avoid over flexing the legs to gclose any small gaps. It worked out fine in the end.

    Congrats on your second chair! I have definitely languished on this project….many other things have stepped in the way of me getting work done on it. But, I’m now back on track. I’m sure that a second chair will go very quickly with all of the jigs completed and with no need to consider (and reconsider)ever step before committing to it!


  3. Wow… This seems like it is going to be an amazing piece when it is done. I haven’t done many chairs, but I love watching them come together.

  4. Mark,
    Have you finished the rocker? I know you have been busy turning thin wall bowls…I have seen your work over at the WOW’s site. Are you going to post a play by play of one of these on your blog.

  5. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for checking in. I have done more work on the rocker than is shown on the blog (just not yet posted) but it’s is still not complete. As you mentioned I have been doing a lot of turning in the time that I have – it is much more conducive to working in short bursts of shop time. I’ve also been elected president of our woodturning association so, there a bunch of work there as well.

    If there’s interest, I can try to do a tutorial of turning a thin bowl and embellishing it with surface design and piercing.


  6. Mark,
    I have been reading your blog on this build for a while now. I have been wanting to build a sculpted rocker for some time, and my choice was a Hal Taylor designed chair. I bought his plans and template and after reading up on his book, decided to try and schedule a session with him. I recently returned from spending a week with Hal in his shop in Virginia. I wish I was in a position to spend a few weeks with him, as he really enjoys teaching people about building his chairs, and talking about life in general. It was an amazing experience. Anyone able to be able to do this should not miss the opportunity. I am just finishing off a bedroom suite I am behind on, and hope to get started on the jigs for the chair soon. I will be building my first of hopefully many chairs, out of cherry, and hope to have it completed by September (so I best get moving LOL) Anyway.. would love to see how your chair is coming along. Your work is very impressive, and this blog has been very informative.
    Thanks, looking forward to upcoming posts.


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