Fall Happenings and the Bending Process of the Bentwood Rocker

It’s been a busy fall here for us here in the land of Shangrila. Our two new little boys, Apollo and Perseus (pictured below checking out the shop) are growing like weeds (up to about 80 & 90lbs at just over 5 months old). They are keeping us very busy and entertained. But we’ve also been busy with customer orders, making a delivery to Mystique Gallery in Scottsdale and now getting ready for another 10 week adventure in AZ at Celebration of Fine Art. We just finished up a desk chair for a NM customer and are underway on a large bedroom order going to a new home in Breckenridge CO.  This large order not only has a king size bed with night stands, but a desk and low back chair and two bent wood rockers. The bending involved in making one of these unique rockers is quite a task. In this blog I will show some of the steps in the creative process.

boys in shop

Apollo and Perseus at 4 months old, checking out the shop. They love to see what’s going on and pick up pieces of wood to chew on.

Shangraw_21079-ZAPP

Here is a completed Bent wood rocker made from Cherry and Ash

The first process is prepping for all the gluing of the legs. This process has to take place before it gets to cold. So we were in a crunch to get all the major gluing done before winter hits. Luckily our weather has been gorgeous and not to cold, which is unusual for this time of year. Scott also changed how the glue up goes on the legs, making each leg of the rocker, three separate glue ups. This may take more time, but makes it a little easier and a much stronger bend.

Once the three bends are complete, the arm gets glued up on a separate form that lies on the leg. Normally we use contrasting woods, to really show off the whole process.

The seat and headrest (normally the same wood as the arms) are glued up, carved and shaped and then the process of putting the rocker together and shaping it, takes place. Even though the bending process of this rocker is very time-consuming and hard, the unique design makes this rocker like no other out there. It’s not the typical classic look, but has a more modern design.

bennett runner strips

This is a set of 9ft long strips ready for the first glue up.

bennett 1st runner glueup

Laminated strips glued up on the form. A lot of clamps go into this glue up. It takes both of us almost hour to do the glue up.

bennett 1st runner

This is what the first glue up looks like when taken out of the form.

bennett 2nd runner glueup

Here is the second glue up. This glue up is a little shorter than the first, building up the middle section of the leg, to make it stronger.

bennett runner glueup closeup

Close up of the second glue up

rocker legs 2nd glueups

Now four rocker legs are glued up and ready for the 3rd and final glue up to beef up the curve area.

final glue up on rocker leg

This is the last of the glue ups on the legs. A small section of laminations is glued on to the curve to make it stronger.

rocker laminated back slat

While some of the legs are being glued up, the laminations for the backrest are cut. Here we have walnut with ash in the middle. The contrasting woods blend in with the rest of the rocker and the ash in the middle of each backrest make them even stronger. These will be flexible backrests, that will flex as you rock.

glue up of rocker spindles

Here is two backrests being glued up on the form. This form was especially made to fit the curve of the back.

cutting rocker leg

Here is Scott trimming up the sides of the rocker leg. It is quite a cut on the bandsaw.

runner sanded

This is what the rocker leg looks like with all the bends glued on and sanded flat. Now it’s ready to attach the arm.

arm form

This is the arm form clamped on to the runner. This form is specially made to get a nice comfortable sweep while rocking.

arm glued up

The arm is now glued on to one of the legs. It’s a tricky glue up due to the curve and takes about an hour from start to finish.

rocker arms

Here you can really see the contrast in the woods, with the walnut arms glued on for one rocker. Next the seat gets attached, then the headrest and back spindles. And finally all the sanding and finishing. Stay tuned for the next blog, showing the completed rockers made from walnut and ash, along with the other bedroom furniture.

Shangri-La Woodworks, Scott and Stephanie Shangraw, HC 61 Box 40

This was our first bent wood rocker made from walnut and mesquite.

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