Custom wooden rocking chair design & build blog
Bent lamination is the process where multiple strips of wood 1/8'' thick or less are glued together on a form with a caul and clamps holding it down for 24 hours until the glue dries. This accomplishes 3 main goals
- creating the desired curve for the lumbar support
- creating the strength needed
- allowing the back brace to have flexibility.
In this blog entry we will go over the process of creating our bent lamination custom rocking chair back braces.
As you see below each back brace consists of 4 different laminations about 2.2mm thick, we grain match the laminations so make sure you keep everything it order!
We lay out the laminations and begin adding glue in between the layers, we use Tite bond III waterproof with some crazy figure like 4500 psi holding strength. This is one reason anything made from bent lamination is so strong, modern glues are very strong, easy to use and even food safe!
Nice relaxing sunday, time to re-saw some rocking chair back braces and rocker laminations. I had already done the Ebony the other day but need to cut the 3 other laminations for each back brace, for a total of 48 more walnut laminations......... time to crank up the music and settle in. It's actually not that bad we re-saw using a 1'' wide blade that is carbide tipped to leave a very smooth finish with a very small kerf its cuts really straight and goes pretty quick through Walnut, it was the Ebony that really was a harder job.
In this picture you can see 2 seat blanks that have been removed from the clamps ready to be drum sanded to remove any inperfections in the glue up. Also is a stack of back brace lamination all in order for each chair. A few hours is actually spent organizing them, there's no going back once there glued up in the forms.
Here are the back braces laid out and numbered for each rocking chair. Again keeping everything organized is very important, a lot of hard work went into making nice grain matched laminations, no messing it up now!
Well since we have an order for a very large pedestal table, we decided we needed a larger assembly table, which we can also use as a table for a vacuum bag. So of course we built a torsion box, if you don't know what one is, it is basically a top and bottom sheet with ribs on the inside similar to a airplane wing. What this does is create a VERY strong and VERY flat surface to work on. Now we built this in the garage so we decided to go with plywood to construct it, as there is a high level and fluctuating level of humidity. All our other torsion boxes have been built using mdf.
In this photo we built a 2x6 frame to have to torsion box top rest on.
The bottom and some side are in place, using glue and brad nails.
We start at one end we have a grid spacing of 6'', you can use a rib as a spacer so it's pretty easy to keep everything in line.
Don't be shy on the glue and use brads along the way to hold things together.
Today was a day of mostly sanding, sanding and even some more sanding. Not nearly as exciting as yesterday which was sanding and more sanding....... but by the end I was able to apply finish to our newest custom rocking chairs which is always so exciting. I think I forget just how beautiful wood can be. Then I apply the finish, and pop there it is........ the wood shows its true colours always a wonderful thing.
Here is the makings of a bar stool i've been working on, the templates are from Scott Morrison but i've change the details, especially the seat joints where we use a joint that offers double the glue surface, by using 1/2'' bits instead of 1/4''.
Picture is the workhorse of the shop the Festool RO150 best sander ever! That's all i'm going to say.
Here is a close up of the Maloof seat joint, this joint is about as strong as you get, especially after adding 2 4'' screws. Not only is it strong but it's very sleek and stylish especially after we sculp, shape, sand, and buff it to perfect fair lines.
Today was a day full of sanding, basically wake up sand, eat , sand , sand , eat , sand , sand , sand , finish! and eat some more. Figured i'd go over how we sand a custom rocking chair.
Our process goes like this
Grinder - 120 grit - 150 grit - 220 grit - 320 grit - 400 grit - abralon 500 grit, burnish with wool pad.
Okay when you type it out it does not seem like much work, but let me tell you it is!! Above 220 we like to hand sand everything, we feel like the piece has a more organic flowing natural lines so soft to the touch, that every time you feel the chair it's a surprise.
Every person that happens to come by at this stage gets to experiance the most exciting times durng the chair build, first it's all sanded ready for finish, one more quick seat of course. And second the transformation from bare wood to the grain popping hand rubbed oil finish.
Here is a close up of the hand carved seat on this custom rocking chair that has been burnished with a wool pad after going through the grinding and sanding procedure. It's sure is nice when the chair starts to get to this stage, you kinda do areas of the chair to completion until it all comes together as a wonderful glowing chair even before we put the finish on.
Joel went on a wood safari today to get some Gaboon Ebony, lucky at our local wood supplier they received a large shipment of Ebony cut offs that they were selling for much less then usual, they charged $6 a pound, shown here is about 40lbs. We generally use this wood for our custom rocking chairs as plugs. Although we did also get a piece that should be able to do 2 chairs worth of back braces. We were so excited to see how this wood would re-sawn on the band saw, that joel went right to the jointer. As I setup the band saw he squared up the plank and 5 minutes later we were cutting the back braces laminations. Now for to plugs so so many plugs.
We decided to store our plugs in this really old Pepsi bottle, we cut about 100 plugs today and just to do the bar stool and latest custom rocking chair we used about 40 plugs.
Below is 4 pieces of back brace laminations that Paul cut, only many many more still to cut, but what A beautiful chair this is going to be. The Ebony is a very very dense wood, it actually sinks in water..... yes we tested (-: Cuts nicely on the table saw, but must cut very slow when band sawing. Thats okay though cut slow have a break in a rocking chair cut some more laminations, back to the rocking chair, back to the band saw...... now were all done!
Today we had to design a round pedestal table. We want a round table with a 52'' diameter that has 2 center leaves that are 12'' each, so pretty big table! We want it to be very robust looking and strong, so were going to go with about a 6x6'' center column with 4'' thick legs and table top supports. I forgot to snap a picture of the design but i'll get it posted up tomorrow. Joel came up with an ingenious sliding dovetail top that will allow each half of the top to be pulled out 12'' to install a leaf or 2 when guest come over.
Final sanding has begun on this custom rocking chair, we do it in stages but as of right now it's about 10% sanded to a final polish so lot's more work to go.
Above we have a bar stool that were adapting from another design, Maloof inspired that's for sure! In Sams book there is a sketch of this bar stool just at random on the side of the page, i've never seen a picture of know if he ever made them but it's going to be a nice stool!
We've had a bunch of progress on this next custom rocking chair, you can see the grain matched back braces are installed along with the headrest. This is a major step in the assembly process because everything in the inside of the back brace area is sanded and buffed to it's final stage, we will touch it up along the way but generally it's ready to go!
Detail shot of the grain matched back braces, which are made of 4 laminations, the top layer was cut from a piece of Zebrawood 1'' thick, using a carbide tipped bandsaw blade.
Below is a test we picked up a new wood called Holly....... yes it's called Hollywood. It remains very white when finished, infact the whitest wood i've ever worked with, looks good but not for this chair were sticking with the ebony plugs as the chair already draws enough attention with the Zebrawood included in the rocking chair.
Below we happen to find a beautiful piece of curly walnut. Joel and I get very excited over special pieces of lumber, because we like to make every piece we make unique and beautiful. With the careful use of exotic and figured woods we can make you a very unique piece of furniture that will be around forever!
We recently came up with a rough drawing of a table leg design we can adapt from our current design. We want to eventually design it with 6 or 8 legs but were starting with 4 to see how the lines work out visually and how the stability is.
Above you can see the template we've created that will be the beginning for every piece of this table. Below we have rough cut out all the pieces, from 1.5'' think walnut and with a center post that is 3'' x 3''. Notice the tung and grove joinery between the center post and center leg sections. Sam Maloof came up with this design from what I understand, not only is it beautiful when were all done, but also about as strong as you can get one reason our furniture will challenge the test of time.
Initial layout of the parts before assembling the joints, below all parts glued up rough sanded and initial shaping via the router has been done, let me tell you there's much more work still to be done!