Kids Rocker Restoration – Whiskey Barrel Style


I’ve held on to my childhood rocker all these years, well my mom did. When my first son was born she asked me to re-finish it, so my kids could use it. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I just now finished bringing the rocker back to life and I now have three kids. I guess it’s better late than never. The important thing to me was to keep it looking like it did when I was a kid. I wanted the memories to live on and I think I accomplished that.

Refinished rocker

The Take Apart

The first thing I did was take apart the rocker to figure out what needs to be replaced and what I could keep. I wanted to re-use everything I could to keep the rocker as original as possible. The seat was already separated from the rocker assembly because of the support being busted, so I knew I would have to replace that. There were a couple more pieces that could’ve been replaced, but I choose to keep those pieces instead. As I was looking over the rest of the rocker I noticed the front of the seat was broken, but it was being held in place by a metal band that is part of the whiskey barrel design. I was able to slip the band off of the barrel (bottom of the seat) and when I did that front piece came clean off. In the process of trying to figure out what to do or how to fix it, I dropped it. 🙁 I dropped it on the concrete shop floor and it broke into three pieces. I quickly added glue, wrapped painters tape around each joint to hold it in place and left it to dry overnight. The next morning I removed the tape to find everything securely in place just as it was before the break. If you’ve ever seen a whiskey barrel then you know how it’s assembled… by using a bunch of strips of wood banded together. That’s exactly how this little rocker was put together. The bands are critical in holding everything together and with this rocker design the upper band had to be riveted into a slat on each end because part of the barrel is cut away to allow for the seat. The bottom band is a full circle and holds the bottom rim of the seat together. Without this band, it would never stand the heavy use from a kid. Moving on to the seat itself. I removed the half torn fabric to also find a different fabric still tacked to the wood seat bottom, what I assume was the very first seat covering on the rocker when it was made. I removed both layers of fabric and also the cushion material. I wasn’t sure I would be able to re-use the top fabric as it was really torn and pretty dingy looking, but I cleaned it the best I could with a shop-vac and it turned out pretty good. There are definitely some stains and faded areas, but that’s ok because I wanted the visual memory of my childhood rocker to be just what I remembered as a kid.

broken rocker

rocker bands

Rocker repair

The Replacements

After fully inspecting the rocker and deciding what absolutely had to be replaced I came to the conclusion that the only thing was the support piece between the rockers, which held the actual rocker pieces parallel to one another. This is also the piece that the wooden seat bottom would attach to, so it’s really an important piece. Without this piece in place the rocker would literally collapse, which is exactly what happened. Knowing how important this support was I knew I wanted to replace it with a chunky piece of hardwood. I’ve had a perfect sized piece of red oak laying around the shop for some time now, so I choose to use that. It was the perfect width and all I had to do is trace out the old shape onto the new piece and cut it out on the bandsaw. The old one was missing a little bit of material, so I had to sketch out what I thought the overall size should be. At the bandsaw I made my straight cuts first and then my curved cut. Before cutting out the curve or arch I cut in some relief cuts perpendicular to the arch. This way I don’t have to make the entire curved cut at one time. Once I have the new support piece cut out I took it to the leg vise, and smoothed the top with a block plane and then sanded the edges down to give it a worn look. Now it’s ready to be reattached.

Rocker support replacement 1 Rocker support replacement 3 Rocker support replacement


When it came time to reassemble everything, the first thing I did was attach the two rocker pieces to the center support with screws. After assembling it, it felt really strong and I was happy with how it turned out. Attaching the seat (barrel) was easy enough, I just had to make sure the chair part was sitting straight and lined up with the rockers otherwise it would sit crooked. Once I had it lined up the way I wanted it, I had to screw it into the support and rockers. I reused the wooden seat bottom and it had a few holes in it from the previous nails, so before I glued the seat back together I turned the seat bottom ninety degrees to give me some fresh wood to screw into. The seat itself is a separate piece all together. It’s made up of a round piece of quarter inch plywood with cushion material and wrapped in a fabric. After removing the fabric and cushion material I cleaned everything real good and sandwiched the cushion between the wood and fabric. To secure the fabric I used a staple gun to attach the fabric to the under side of the seat insert. I started by folding a section on itself and stapling it, then from the opposite side I folded it on itself again and stapled. I did this all the way around until the fabric was nice and tight all the way around the seat.

Whiskey barrel rocker band

Rocker reassembly Rocker reassembly

Rocker seat

The Finish

Applying the finish on this project was a little different than your typical wow moment. When the project was completed it just looked like an old rocker, but unique in its own way due to the fact it was made out of an old whiskey style barrel. Adding the finish, in this case a wood oil conditioner, made the rocker look even more original. As I applied the oil all the character and years came back to life. The heavily used areas darkened as if it was a century old and the bands boasted a patina worth writing about. In my opinion, the character that age gives a piece of furniture is way more interesting than a freshly new sheen that a brand new piece gives off. I love shiny objects just as much as the next person, but in this project it was more personal and created emotion that I can’t recreate in a new piece of furniture.

Rocker finish Rocker barrel back Whiskey Barrel Rocker Rocker refinished

Materials Used

I reused most of the materials in this project, but for the support piece that I replaced I used a piece of red oak.

Project Plans

If you would like to see plans created for this project please contact me here:

See the plans we currently offer:

Tools Used In This Project

(*the projects mentioned in this article can be built with limited tools)

Power Tools:

• Bandsaw, Grizzly:

• Bandsaw riser block:

Drilling and Accessories:

• Drill and impact 20v, Porter Cable:

• Drill and drive bit set, Kobalt:

• Drill bit set 21 piece, Kobalt:

• Counter sink bits:

Air Tools:

• Air compressor, silent series:

• 18ga stapler, Porter Cable:

Dust Collection and Accessories:

• Dust collector 2hp, Central Machinery:

• Shop Vac, 5 gal:

Clamping and Accessories:

• 6″ F style clamp, Bessey:

Measuring, Marking and Layout:

• Lefty/Righty 16′ tape measure, FastCap:

Hand Tools:

• Block plane, Stanley:


• Safety glasses, 3M:

• Hearing protection with Bluetooth, ISOTunes Pro:

• Fire extinguisher:

• First aid kit:

Video Equipment and Electronics:

• DSLR camera and mic, Canon/Rode:

• Camera battery pack, Canon:

• Wireless mic, Rode:

• Mic wind muff:

• Tripod, Manfrotto:

• Mic for voiceover, Snowball:

• Backpack for laptop (modified for camera):

• Memory card, 64gb:

• Memory card waterproof case:

• Laptop, MacBook:

• Network Attached Storage, 6TB:

Other tools I use


*Most of the links listed above are Amazon Affiliate links

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