Cutting Rockers for a Rocking Chair

A classic front porch with a rocking chair and several other chairs for seating.

Rockers are the part of a rocking chair that rocks back and forth on the floor. The length and shape of rockers affect the behavior of the chair when it is used. Sharply curved rockers result in a faster, less uniform motion, while long, shallow rockers keep the operation smooth and well balanced. Below are a few tips on how to calculate the length, guidelines for the arc of the curve and how to prevent the damaging of hard floors with the finished chair.

Purchasing Ready-made Rockers

Depending on the rocking chair, you may be able to purchase ready-cut rockers. This can be a confusing method, and the risk of purchasing parts that you can't use can be annoying. If you choose to purchase them, make certain the model and style of rocking chair match and verify that you are getting rockers that will perform as you require.

Measuring Rockers

For a nursery rocking chair, the arc of the rockers should be very small. Calculate the arc to rise one to 1 1/2 inches from the cent to the tips of the rockers. For the length, the rockers are generally equal to the horizontal distance from the tip of the chair back to the front edge of the seat, plus three inches. When installing the rockers, two inches of overhang will be placed on the rear of the rockers, and the final inch will protrude slightly from the front.

Although this is a guideline for a nursery chair, it is still a fairly good rule for porch chairs as well.

Materials to Use

Rockers can be cut from solid lumber, such as including 2x4s, or you can customize the thicknesses. You can also cut simple rockers out of plywood panels. If you are using plywood, cut two rockers for each side and fasten them on either side of the legs of the chair, forming a double rocker on each side. This helps to distribute the weight of the chair and reduces possible floor damage.

Other ideas for materials include shaped aluminum or plastic sheets. Clear plexiglass is an attractive option because it is flexible enough to be used in shallow curved designs.

Curves from Straight Cuts

If you do not have a jigsaw to cut curved parts for your rocking chair, you can create many curved cuts with a circular saw and a belt sander. Make several straight cuts in the material so that the curve is made up of many short edges. Then, using a coarse grit paper on a belt sander, round off the corners until the curve takes shape. Switch to a fine grit paper and smooth the sanded surface.

How to Protect Floors

Cut two pieces of thin rubber that are as wide and long as the bottom of the rocker rails. Glue one of these strips to each rail, so that they form a buffer between the rocker and the floor. This will avoid common damages that happen when rocking chairs are used on hard floors. If you cut the strips wider and longer than the rockers, you can trim the extra material off after the glue dries, saving some time trying to mount correctly sized pieces.