Power Carved 2X4 Rocking Chair
Inspiration surrounds us all. No matter what we’re doing, we are all influenced in some way or another. For this project, it was a trip to our friend Wayne Brown’s shop for inspiration where Jay Bates, Wayne and myself were power carving a seat for a stool.
I enjoyed it so much that I borrowed Wayne’s angle grinder and grinding discs to try my hand carving on a different project. I took it a step further than carving a seat, though. I decided to glue up an entire chair or rocking chair in this case out of 2×4’s. It was basically a big carving blank.
The design for the rocking chair started out being inspired by Sam Maloof’s beautiful creations. I knew recreating a Maloof rocker out of 2×4’s was more than likely out of reach, but I was inspired nonetheless. Using the 2×4’s in a way to create a carving blank would allow me enough material to shape the rocker how I wanted. The base or starting point of the rocker was constructed with half laps and dowels.
There were a couple of reasons for this, using half laps would allow for strong and easy construction and the dowels would help align and hold the joints in place with glue. I didn’t want to use screws or any kind of metal fasteners to avoid the chance of hitting one.
Designing the whole thing in SketchUp first really helped with he process of laying out all the joints. You can see the plans here. The dowels added a cool look especially when I carved away part of a joint at an angle. So, that was another part of the design. My thinking was when the carving was completed these half lap joints combined with the curves produced by the carver would look like one big piece of wood. Now, with that in mind take a look at the image below of a Maloof rocker and you’ll understand the look I was going for.
One design aspect I want to touch on is the way the seat and back connect or don’t connect. In the video it might look like I assemble the seat and back with an alternating joint method, but in reality the only point of connection with the two is where they meet.
They don’t actually interlock with one another. The reason for this was to create visual interest on the top and bottom of the back with alternating lengths. The way the other pieces connect to the seat and back is enough to support them both.
Milling the lumber
When it came time to mill the wood into parts it was fairly simple. Here are the steps I took to complete this process:
1. Cut parts to length, I used my miter saw to cut everything down into their final length. Because this is a blank so to speak, you don’t have to worry about 100 percent accuracy.
2. Joint the round edges off to get 90 degree edges (or use a table saw), removing the round edges gives you nice clean joints without any gaps.
3. Plane down to the desired thickness, having the same thickness wood is for consistency throughout the project.
4. Draw out the joints on each part (using the plan), layout is critical in any project and it’s no different in this one. Making sure all the joints are drawn in the correct place before making that first cut will save you time and frustration down the road. I actually messed up on one of the rear legs and had to redo it. Just take your time and follow the plan.
5. Cut out each joint on the bandsaw (or circular saw), The bandsaw makes quick work of this step. There were a couple of joints I had to work around due to the piece being too long, but I made it work. I cut out every joint on the bandsaw.
Dry fitting and assembly
Dry fitting the pieces after cutting out the half laps is a good idea. It’s easier to make adjustments now instead of trying to do that while you’re gluing the rocker together.
This is also a good time to make any design changes that you see fit. Even though this was a practice run for me, I still wanted to make sure everything lined up properly and there were no issues with the joints or the design before I started the glue up. I have a good example of this… The seat and back were designed to be wider than normal for good reason. During the dry fit you can decide how wide you want the seat in order to fit your needs. I ended up taking a few boards out.
Once I had the dry fit like I wanted I proceeded gluing up the seat and back. From there I added the front and rear legs. I made sure to clamp everything while working with the glue, but if there were any places that I knew would get a dowel I used screws to hold it in place and removed the clamps to get them out of the way. Once the glue dried I could then go back to remove the screws and drill holes with a forstner bit for the dowels.
One quick tip I received from a viewer was to “flute” the dowels to allow for more glue surface area. Nothing fancy about this, I just used my knife to remove some material, applied glue and hammered in the dowels with a mallet. I worked my way around the rocker making sure I had dowels in all the right places and called it good.
This is where the fun begins. Before I can start hogging away any material I need to make sure I have some reference lines in place.
The purpose of reference lines is to give you visual indication where the center is, what needs to stay and what needs to go.
Without any lines you might get lost in what you’ve already done and it’s a good idea to keep adding reference lines as you carve. With my lines established, I can start carving. I’m using an angle grinder and Holey Galahad carving discs. Having experience once before carving a seat I decided to start there and work my around.
Not having a final look in mind, I just had fun. In doing so, I nibbled away one of the ears and one of the handholds. It wasn’t a big deal because I knew I was just practicing. I could’ve experimented by shaping the other ear and handhold into a different shape, but I also wanted to practice trying to match the other side.
In other words, if I were to try this with walnut or some other hardwood I want to make sure I can hide any mistakes I might make. Someone once said, a good craftsman is one that can hide his mistakes well. Whether you believe that or not, it’s true.
One thing to keep in mind while carving and especially with a course disc is that you’re not going to get a final shape from the grinder. You might get away with it using a fine disc, but finessing the final look and feel will probably come from a card scraper or maybe even from a sander. With this particular project I used pine and pine is soft. The carving disc will grab the soft wood, so I had a few times where the grinder made contact with the wood and really dug in creating gouges that I had to work out. Anytime that happens more material needs to be removed to correct it, hiding the mistake. 😉
The rockers were last on my list to carve because I knew those had to be symmetrical to get an even rocking motion. This was the tricky part. The only way I knew to do this without having any experience with rockers was to either create a template or to carve the first one and transfer that shape over to the other, I went with the latter. It worked out better than I expected.
What I learned
I learned a ton from this project. First of all, if I want to know how to do something I need to try doing it first hand in a real exercise. I don’t claim to know much of anything about power carving, but I can tell you that I know a lot more now than I did before I tried.
I also learned that I like power carving and that I really want to make a Maloof style rocking chair one day. I think in order for me to get there I need to practice and to get to the place where I’m actually physically practicing what I want to learn I have to put myself out there and take risks.
This 2×4 rocking chair turned out to be pretty ugly in my opinion and I very easily could have not shown the results or the process, but I think that’s part of the learning experience. I have said this before, but I think it’s fitting here so I’ll say it again and it’s something I tell my boys all the time… If I think I can’t do something it really means I don’t want to. I never heard a successful person say, I wished I hadn’t taken that risk.
- (12) 2” x 4” x 8’ boards
2×4 Power Carved Rocking Chair plan: https://stoneandsons.net//shop/power-carving-rocking-chair-blank/
See our other plans: https://stoneandsons.net//plans/
Tools Used In This Project
(*this project can be built with limited tools)
• Shop apron/vest, Atlas 46: http://bit.ly/atlas46
• Hats/shirts: https://stoneandsons.net//product-category/apparel/
• Angle grinder, Ryobi: http://amzn.to/2ix68jA
• Carving discs: http://amzn.to/2hMVuYx
• Miter saw, Kobalt: http://amzn.to/2mD5lkV
• Bandsaw, Grizzly: http://amzn.to/2q3Lqcs
• Bandsaw riser block: http://amzn.to/2snwHhV
Sanders and Accessories:
• Random orbital, Skil: http://amzn.to/2ts2o9C
Drilling and Accessories:
• Drill and impact 20v, Porter Cable: http://amzn.to/2txekak
• Drill and drive bit set, Kobalt: http://amzn.to/2stIbf6
• Drill bit set 21 piece, Kobalt: http://amzn.to/2urlY2G
• Forstner bit set, Porter Cable: http://amzn.to/2trXpG5
Dust Collection and Accessories:
• Shop Vac, 12 gal: http://amzn.to/2ts4ENX
Measuring, Marking and Layout:
• Lefty/Righty 16′ tape measure, FastCap: http://amzn.to/2urCXSy
• Combo square, Stanley: http://amzn.to/2txzwxe
• Safety glasses, 3M: http://amzn.to/2txHtT7
• Fire extinguisher: http://amzn.to/2ururTy
• First aid kit: http://amzn.to/2urwR4B
Video Equipment and Electronics:
• DSLR camera and mic, Canon/Rode: http://amzn.to/2urN0qA
• Camera battery pack, Canon: http://amzn.to/2sudLcx
• Wireless mic, Rode: http://amzn.to/2vYjDkF
• Mic wind muff: http://amzn.to/2urLqoy
• Tripod, Manfrotto: http://amzn.to/2s9MHjB
• Mic for voiceover, Snowball: http://amzn.to/2spgI2K
• Backpack for laptop (modified for camera): http://amzn.to/2sppNsC
• Memory card, 64gb: http://amzn.to/2s9hPzC
• Memory card waterproof case: http://amzn.to/2suLliC
• Laptop, MacBook Pro: http://amzn.to/2urnDFx
• Network Attached Storage, 6TB: http://amzn.to/2suvRLu
Other tools I use
*Most of the links listed above are Amazon Affiliate links
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