You CAN build a rocking chair
In the March/April issue of Fine Woodworking you’ll find part one of a two-part article by Peter Galbert called Windsor Rocker Without Special Tools. The editors thought long and hard about doing this article because not only is there an enormous amount involved in building this kind of chair, but almost all the skills are new to most furniture makers. Drilled many mortises at odd angles? Done much reaming? Balanced a pair of rockers? Well I certainly hadn’t, so when we chose Pete as the author I requested that I build a chair in conjunction with the photo shoot. This way not only would I get a deeper understanding of the project, but by learning where it was easy to make mistakes I could red flag these steps to Pete and have the article better guide other novice chairmakers.
Not only is Pete a great chairmaker but he is also a great teacher: He explains things clearly, makes sure you understand, lets you get on with it, and if you do make a mistake, bails you out. I did some of the work in his shop between taking photos, but most was “homework” back in my own shop. I found the whole chairmaking experience a really refreshing change from regular furniture making. It felt good to sculpt a chair seat instead of working just in straight lines; to keep using a spokeshave until the curve pleased your eye instead of following a plan to the nearest 1/64 in. There was more than one email or phone call asking Pete for directions, but then again I didn’t have an article to follow.
The end result? A chair that graces the room, is the most comfortable in my house, and brings back good memories every time I see it. I hope you build one yourself.