Maloof Rocker - Roughing into SketchUp

comments (29) June 4th, 2009 in blogs

Killenwood Tim Killen, contributor
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Readers who know me will recognize my shift into the contemporary world with this blog entry. I admit being stuck in the 18th C with my furniture interests, but this excursion was far too tempting given the recent passing of woodworking icon Sam Maloof (1916-2009)

My students expressed interest in building a Maloof Rocker and I am taking on the challenge. But first, it is critical for me to understand the design, details and joinery by "constructing" this chair (or any first-time piece) in SketchUp. So this entry will identify my methods of building the computer model of a Maloof Rocker.

Two Fine Woodworking references were important to this task, issues No. 25 and 42.

Step 1: Import (as an image) the orthographic sketches from Sam's article How I Make a Rocker in Fine Woodworking issue #42 into SketchUp. After import, square the image with the red and blue axes. Also use the Scale Tool to make the dimensions in the image equal to full-size in SketchUp.

Step 2: Begin tracing (with the Line and Arc Tools) over the shapes of the seat, front and back legs. Make individual groups for each separate piece. You can see the resulting flat shapes the picture below. I was careful to build these shapes exactly fitting together at the joints.

I also scanned the front orthographic view from the magazine and traced over the front face of the back leg.

Step 3: I worked on the Seat first, changing the flat group made above into a half-seat component. (For symmetrical pieces, I find it quicker and easier to work on only the left or right half, later copying and flipping to make the whole). Before making the seat a component, I rotated the group so it lines up with the red, green, and blue axes. This makes it easier to create joinery with the component in this non-angled orientation.

I find the joinery in this chair to be interesting, particularly the seat joints. Below I've tried to represent the joinery used by Maloof from the information provided in the Fine Woodworking articles. This view of the seat (from the back corner) shows the joint for the back leg. The front-to-back face of this joint is made at a 5 degree angle to provide the back leg splay. (Note that I've shown square corners on the top surface of the seat - Maloof used a radius in the corner).

Step 4: Next I developed the front leg component which is turned using the Follow Me Tool. The square section provides the socket to fit into the seat joint. I made this leg centerline to be perpendicular to the seat. There are dowel sockets in the ends of the legs for connecting to the rocker and the arm.

Step 5: The Back Leg requires an extra step using the Intersect feature in SketchUp. The front face shape needs to "intersect" with the side face. Use the Push/Pull Tool to give the Front Shape its thickness, enough to fully pass through the already thicknessed Side Shape. Then explode all the pieces, select all, and execute Intersect with Selected. Use the Eraser to clean up all the waste.

Step 6: Create the dado joint in the bottom of the leg. This must be done on a 5 degree angle to provide the splay.

The remaining parts are created similarly and we have a rough chair as shown below.

The model represents a rough band-sawed shape and clearly lacks the smooth rounded features of a real Maloof design. However, I will probably not attempt smooth shaping of the model, as it would be difficult. Also, I don't need smoothing information from the model to proceed efficiently with construction in the shop.

UPDATE: I've just roughed this out in the shop..... now for the job of fairing, shaping, rounding, etc.

A number of full-size templates fall out of the 3D model. For the long ones, I paste to 1/4-in. plywood. Otherwise, they are backed with regular poster board. Here is a picture of the complement of templates used.


posted in: blogs, chair, modern

Comments (29)

Killenwood Killenwood writes: OfficinaPoly: You can contact me via email at

Posted: 2:15 am on September 24th

OficinaPoly OficinaPoly writes: Hello I live in Brazil would like to know how to get the models and plans of Sam Maloof chair? Intereco'm doing here in Brazil! good luck to all! ass.Sebastian
Posted: 11:15 pm on September 23rd

woodie49 woodie49 writes:
How can I get the plans for the Maloof Rocker?
Contack me at
Posted: 9:21 pm on October 17th

BWick BWick writes: Hi, please contact me at with information on how to order plans.

Thank you
Posted: 4:54 pm on September 9th

SteveGaskins SteveGaskins writes: Ed Rizzardi,

How can I get the plans for the Maloof Rocker and how can I send you the $30 for the plans. You can contact me at

Posted: 9:55 pm on July 7th

Yumpin Yumpin writes: Hi Ed I want to know how I can get the planes for this rocking chair please contact me at
thank you
Posted: 3:24 pm on July 3rd

happyjackson happyjackson writes:
Ed Rizzardi

You are very kind to offer the plans for the Maloof Racker and I would gladly send you the $30 for them, but where do I send it to?

Are these 1 to 1 drawings or do we need AutoCad to open and print them?


Posted: 12:13 am on June 19th

Claysthename Claysthename writes: Tim, Thanks for sharing your computer model and SketchUp techniques. I designed an arbor for my backyard in 2006 and found even that simple project to be very challenging and rewarding. I spent a lot of hours on my simple model so I can only imagine how long you've been working with SketchUp. For other aspiring SketchUp artists I recommend downloading the free version and then visiting and searching the public "3D Warehouse" for ideas and even models and project components that they can download and use as the basis of their projects. I didn't really make any progress in SketchUp until I downloaded someone else's vaguely similar plan and then started pulling and pushing on the parts with various tools to get the hang of it. I in turn uploaded my completed plan to the 3D Warehouse and I'm gratified to see that 805 people have downloaded that plan. Anyone who is interested can find it by searching the 3D Warehouse for "Claysthename". One caution though - SketchUp can be addictive and will definitely cut into your shop time (please pardon the poor pun).
Posted: 11:04 am on June 13th

dcms3 dcms3 writes: Mr. Rizzardi,
Could you please provide more information about the purchase of the CAD plans you have on the Maloof rocker? I would be interested in purchasing a set of plans.

Thank you,


Posted: 6:42 pm on June 11th

Killenwood Killenwood writes: Edgarwood: I would recommend that you initially practice and learn SketchUp on a rectilinear project. I would find it more difficult, as a new student of SketchUp, to tackle this chair. And it would be frustrating as you have found.

Posted: 11:05 am on June 11th

CJMac CJMac writes: Mock up looks great,Scoot pretty harsh dude. Thanks Randyw & Cannikin for encouragement. Thanks Tim for your valuable time. Can anyone suggest some of the cabinet programs Tim is talking about.
Ed Rizzardi I'd like to get your plans.

Posted: 8:44 am on June 11th

edgarwood edgarwood writes: Thank you Tim. I decided to build my first Maloof rocker last year. I had just learned about Sketchup, and decided to try and do what you have done. I'm somewhat computer savy, but impatient, and eventually got frustrated with Sketchup and drew the part templates by hand, based on the same input. I've completed two rockers now, they're beautiful. But I still have a burning desire to complete my original Sketchup project and master Sketchup. Your post will help with that. Again, thank you.
Posted: 7:15 am on June 11th

Killenwood Killenwood writes: To CJMac: I would use SketchUp if I were doing a kitchen cabinet design. But I am not in that business. There are other applications specifically designed for cabinet work, and I have not used any of them. I am sure these specific programs have features tailored for this type of work, so you would need to evaluate the differences.

Posted: 12:40 am on June 11th

zonie zonie writes: Ed Rizzardi: How could I get in contact with you re: your plans and techniques on the Maloof rocker.

Posted: 6:16 pm on June 10th

MBerger MBerger writes: I think we can all agree this project is well on its way to becoming a great chair.
Posted: 5:46 pm on June 10th

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: I believe Tim's comment regarding smoothing had nothing to do with the actual chair. Instead, I believe he was referring to smoothing in the SketchUp model. Since the model as it is serves its purpose, there would little value in investing time and effort into doing that.

Posted: 5:06 pm on June 10th

scootsp8 scootsp8 writes: MBerger,
Tim Commented that the smooth shaping would be quite difficult...I was simply trying to give him ideas on that. I found the shaping to be incredible fun, as that is where the creativity starts.
Posted: 4:56 pm on June 10th

MBerger MBerger writes: Just as I thought in my original comment. Your woodworking skills are impressive! What the commenter below me probably didn't read is that your photo is the rough chair before shaping not the finished product. Keep us posted on your progress...
Posted: 4:46 pm on June 10th

scootsp8 scootsp8 writes: Nice try Tim ... but ... have you ever come across an actual Maloof rocker???? Your front legs are much too proud of the seat and theose joints should sit 3/4 inches into the seat.
The screws (which are not necessary if the joinery is good) should be left to the very last in order to allow for shaping of the parts. Also, the end user will find this seat somewhat painful, as the hard edge should be on the bottom of the front edge of the seat, not the top, which should be well rounded for the user's comfort. Rout over the top side edges of the seat with a 3/4 roundover bit. Do the same for both sides, top and bottom of the legs and back legs, top to bottom. Take more meat off the armrests as they are too klunky. Then, using an angle grinder, die grinder, and sander, grind and then sand the piece for about 100 hours. THEN put the screws into the joints, if you so desire. Good luck and best wishes.
Posted: 4:28 pm on June 10th

Nelco_Boy Nelco_Boy writes: I have had a dream of building one of Maloof rocker's too.
I would appreciate info from Ed,how best to contact for set of drawings...
thanks and Aloha!
Mike / Nelco_Boy
Posted: 12:16 pm on June 10th

rmantell rmantell writes: Ed Rizzardi:
Ho do I get in touch with you ?

Posted: 12:07 pm on June 10th

edrizzardi edrizzardi writes: Tim:
Your shetches are a basic begining for someone to make a Maloof inspired rocking chair. I knew Sam for 30 years and have made over 25 Maloof inspired rocking chairs. Over the years I have refined the design and geometry many times. I don't know if you plan to enhance the sketches with working drawings showing dimensions and methods to cut the front and back leg joints, spindal design, the radius for the rockers or the method to do the rocker bent laminations. There is more to making a comfortable and yet visually beautiful rocking chair than one can imagine.

I have a complete set of working drawings on Auto-Cad to construct a Maloof inspired rocking chair. A set of drawing is $30.00 if you are interested. I hope I can help with your project.


Ed Rizzardi
Posted: 10:55 am on June 10th

RandyW RandyW writes: Tim, great Sketchup work. CJ, I've been a film set designer for nearly 20 years and now use Sketchup on a daily basis, not just for modeling but for putting out working drawings of everything from planes to ships to kitchens. I've done plenty of work with it for my wife's interior design business as well. A lot of manufacturers now have digital models of their entire product line available for it. I think you'll see it become even easier to use to create working drawings in the near future.
Posted: 9:29 am on June 10th

CJMac CJMac writes: Tim, amazing work, I hope some day to be able to create drawings like this on my computer ( not very computer savy right now). I want to switch from drawing board and pencil to computer. SketchUp looks great but I do a lot of kitchen and room plans for my customers, is this the program I should be looking at or do you recommend something else without getting into a full blown and expensive CAD program.
Thanks for your time.
Posted: 8:45 am on June 10th

pwdavo pwdavo writes: A great bit of work depicting a great bit of work.
Posted: 5:22 am on June 10th

Killenwood Killenwood writes: Denis, yes I am aware of Maloof using multiple pieces for the seat. These pieces were bandsawed prior to gluing to relieve the scooping effort in shaping the top of the seat. This process could be captured in a SketchUp model. I do not think this changes the joint details for the legs.
I am using ash in a width which avoids gluing pieces. Also, I used my Windsor chair process for scooping the seat (with travishers).

Posted: 5:16 pm on June 5th

denismo denismo writes: Morning Tim,Admire the post.I built a few of these some years ago ,using the magazine article and a pbs video I taped.Since the seat blank is large, it is made of pieces with mating faces slightly beveled to produce a curved blank when viewed from the front.I suppose this affects the leg joint geometry for the seat.Could this be done in Sketchup by making the necessary adjustments to the flat seat ,starting from the point you are at?Regards,Denis
Posted: 8:12 am on June 5th

Smith5963 Smith5963 writes: Just because something can be done (in sketchup) doesn't mean it should be done....
Posted: 8:14 pm on June 4th

MBerger MBerger writes: Tim, your sketchup skills are simply amazing! But for me, seeing a Maloof rocker like this is almost too hard to wrap my head around. To use a bad Star Wars analogy, it's the difference between C3PO and Princess Leah. That said, I can't wait to see how your finished piece turns out. I'm sure it will be a masterpiece as always.
Posted: 3:46 pm on June 4th

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