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How to Build a Rocking Chair

  • Rocking chairs have been around since before the Middle ages.
  • Benjamin Franklin is credited with the actual invention of the rocking chair, although that is controversial.
  • There are many available plans for rocking chairs on line.
  • Van Dyke’s has a nice selection of rocker runners for building your own rocking chair.
Front Porch Photo with rockers
Nothing is quite as relaxing as the rhythmic motion of a rocking chair especially with the sounds of leaves rustling in a gentle breeze on a lazy summer evening.
Whether calming a fussy baby in the nursery or just melting away the stress of the day, rocking chairs have been a part of our lives since birth.
How many blankets and baby booties have been knitted by grandmothers across the world while rocking away the hours in front of a fireplace?

History of Rocking Chairs

While the rocking chair is a distinctly American passion, the forerunner of the rocking chair originated much earlier. The addition of rollers on chairs and rocking horses predate the rocking chair we know today.
Rocking cradles were in use in Europe before the Middle Ages, while children’s rocking horses were popularized during the Victorian era.


Wooden Rocking Chair PhotoBenjamin Franklin is credited with the actual invention of the rocking chair in 1710, although other sources claim it was invented by farmers or by early cabinetmakers.
The word rocking chair didn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1787. The American Shakers, well-known for their simple, functional furniture, perfected the design and created some of the best rockers of the time.
Rocker photo
Outdoor style rocking chairs first appeared in England in 1725. The Windsor rocker featured a hood-shaped back with birdcage-like spindles.
The Boston rocker was a variation of the Windsor rocker and appeared in New England in 1840 and was the first machine, mass-produced rocking chair. The Bentwood rocker originated in Germany in 1860.
Rocking chair construction is a popular project for furniture makers and the home craftsman. Van Dyke’s has the rocking chair components you need to create your own rocking masterpiece.
There are literally hundreds of plans for various types of rocking chairs from simple to complex available on line. Van Dyke’s offers a good selection of rocker runners in adult and children’s sizes to suit most rocker projects.

Here are a few tips to consider no matter what style rocker you have decided to build.

1.  Decide what type of wood you want to use for making your rocking chair. Van Dyke’s runners are available in Oak or Maple. We recommend using a hard wood instead of a soft wood like Pine.
2.  Cut out each piece of the rocker according to your plans – seat, back, legs, and arms.
3.  Cut notches as described in your project plans and be careful to follow directions carefully to make sure pieces will fit properly.
4.  Assemble the pieces working from front to back.
5.  Place the completed rocker on the runner before drilling holes to determine the best placement. The front of the runner should extend 1 1/2 inches to 5 inches beyond the front leg and 4 to 9 inches beyond the back legs depending on the length of the runner and the distance between your front and back posts.
6.  Use a level to determine proper placement and mark with a pencil. Turn chair upside down and measure distance between front and back leg posts and transfer this measurement to the runner you just measured.
7.  Once assembled, paint or stain. If it is being used outdoors, apply at least two coats of a weather-resistant coating.
Happy rocking, and we’ll see you on the front porch!



About Larry Padgett

Larry is an award-winning journalist and photo journalist with over 35 years of experience. He has written for a number of industries including healthcare, die casting, construction, home restoration, sports, education, and religion. He is a copywriter and blogger for Van Dyke's Restorers.

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