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How to make a two person rocking chair
How to make a two person rocking chair

Gather your supplies

  • A*End/centre panels (3) 830 x 800 x 19mm exterior plywood
  • B Cross-rails (2) 1140 x 200 x 19mm exterior plywood
  • C**Wide slats (29) 42 x 19 x 1200mm pine
  • D**Narrow slats (15) 19 x 19 x 1200mm pine
  • E Wearing strips (3) 20 x 4 X 815mm hardwood

You'll also need

Exterior PVA glue; Cabot’s Water-based Exterior Varnish Stain.

One of life's perfect moments is when you plant yourself in a rocking chair, and start rockin'. But you can improve on perfection. How about a rocking chair for two? Those that rock together...

The chair consists of three curvy plywood shapes, two cross-rails and a heap of timber slats. All up, the cost should be less than $200 if using plain pine, and a little more if using LOSP (light organic solvent preservative) pine for a chair that is to live outdoors. You could design your own rocker and seat shape, but the pattern (opposite) gives you a shape that is really comfortable. To make it, you'll need little more than a jigsaw, hammer, screwdriver, tape, square and a paintbrush (to paint on the stain that protects the timber).

Rocking through history

It's believed that rocking chairs originated in England in the early 1700s, but the concept of rocking horses and cradles is much older. Early designs simply had curved bands fitted to the bottom of ordinary chairs. Rocking chairs were made universally popular in the mid-to-late 1700s in the US, where they became almost an essential piece of furniture for gardens and porches. The term, 'rocking chair', first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in the late 1700s.

Two person rocking chair diagram

Side view two person rocking chair

Here's how

Step 1

To design the rocker part of the chair, you could trace the pattern from an old rocking chair onto plywood. But, for the shape used here, expand the diagram (see above) of the complete end and centre panels (A). Arrange the shape so the bottom of the rocker is at the base of the sheet and the straight front on an edge.

Step 2

Cut out 1 of the end panels using a jigsaw with the plywood mounted on gluts (blocks), so the saw blade clears the bench. Sand the edges to remove any bumps left in the shape after cutting out. Use this panel to mark up the second panel on the same piece of plywood and cut out as before. Then make the third panel.

Step 3

From the front straight edge of the centre panel, measure 100 and 650mm. At these marks, draw 250mm-long lines, up from the bottom and parallel with front edge. Use an offcut of the plywood to draw a line parallel to the first two. From the short side of each pair of lines, measure up 100 and 200mm. Cut out the lower 100mm sections as one half of the cross halving joints. Then cut a 100 x 19mm notch out of the centre of the 2 cross-rails (B).

Step 4

Use the slots cut in the centre panel to mark the positions where the cross-rails will butt against the side panels. Extend the lines up the full 200mm so you know where to predrill screw holes.

Step 5

Predrill clearance holes for the screws from the inside. Then flip the board over and countersink the outside so the screw heads will finish flush with the surface.

Step 6

With the bottom of an end panel overhanging the edge, clamp the end panel to the bench. Glue and screw the cross-rails to the panel, making sure that the slots in the cross-rails face up. Once both rails are fixed to one end panel, put the assembly on the ground and screw on the other end panel.

Step 7

Back on the bench, apply glue and slot the centre panel into the slots of the cross-rails. If it’s a little tight, tap in place with a hammer. Make sure you use a block of softwood between the hammer and the panel to avoid damage. Sand all the edges smooth.

Step 8

With the seat frame on its back, start nailing the slats to the frame with the bottom-most wide slat (C) at the bottom front edge. The slats have an 11mm overhang. Apply glue and predrill for 1 nail so you don’t split the plywood edge. Nail in place, then align slat so it will be horizontal once rocker is on its feet. Predrill, then drive in the other nail.

Step 9

Add a further 3 wide slats, making sure they are parallel to the first and use a carpenter’s pencil or similar to achieve a constant gap of 8-10mm. Some adjustment may be necessary to achieve even gaps.

Step 10

When you reach the sharper curve, you’ll need to use 6 narrow slats (D) to get around this curve. Use the same spacing and overhang, and don’t forget to predrill before nailing.

Step 11

Keep working around the chair in the same way with 6 wide slats on the seat, 3 narrow slats at the base of the backrest, 9 wide slats up the backrest, 6 narrow slats over the top, and 10 wide and 5 narrow slats down the back. They do not go right down to the rocker as the square edge would foul when the chair is rocked back.

Step 12

To help with the wearing of the rocker curve, use thin wearing strips (E) of hardwood glued to the base of the chair. Glue and hold with masking tape until glue is set. If you nail, a nail head may eventually come loose and potentially damage your floor. Wipe off excess glue. Paint the whole chair with 2 coats of Cabot’s Water-based Exterior Varnish Stain. When the paint is left untinted, it gives a light Baltic look to pine. Now, where’s that collection of rock ‘n’ roll vinyls?

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