Less Lean on a Rocking Chair?
Issue: Issue 337
Posted Date: 10/22/2013
I have a small retirement shop where I do furniture repair and refinishing. A customer wants the caning redone on a rocking chair, but also wants the rocker to sit so that it does not lean so far back. I hesitate to sit in the rocker as it leans so far back that I feel it will go over backwards. The rocker rails are approximately 1-1/2" square wood. My question is how can this be corrected? Also, are there proper angles or degrees that a rocker should be designed? There are no manufacturer names or model numbers. I was told the rocker came from Cuba. I do not know what kind of wood it is made from. The rocker seat is sloped approximately 17 degrees from the floor. - Al Gratrix, Sr.
Rob Johnstone: Rocking chairs are great to have around and fun to make, but they are a bit curious in that there are few hard-and-fast rules regarding their design and construction. (On the other hand, dining room chairs and office chairs have a much more robust set of rules and relationships when it comes to their ergonomic design.) For example, the fact that your seat is approximately 17 degrees to the floor when the chair is at rest tells me that this is likely a handmade chair. In general, rocking chairs seats should be fairly "level" to the floor when they are at rest — when no one is sitting in them. When occupied, a well-made rocker will roll back and sit at a comfortable angle (at that point, 17 degrees will likely feel pretty good, but it would be extreme for me personally). By contrast, an office chair will keep its seat level with the floor as you sit at a desk.
Adjusting a completed rocking chair is not an easy thing to do. If the legs of the rocking chair can easily be detached from the rockers, you could adjust how far the chair leans back by moving the leg locations forward on the rockers. Again, if the legs can come free of the rockers, you could remake the rockers. (If you could temporarily attach the legs to the rockers — perhaps with hot-glue or something like it — you could test how the chair sits on the rockers. If it leans too far back when empty and at rest, move the legs farther forward.) And, once again, if the legs can come free from the rockers … you could shorten the front legs a bit and see if that shifts the center of gravity. But the bottom line is that in each of the above situations, it will be a matter of trial and error until you get it where you want it. Sorry I could not be more helpful.