Limbert-style Rocking Chair
Arts & Crafts heritage with today’s time-saving joinery
Rock the night away in an Arts & Crafts heirloom you built yourself.
Mortise-and-tenon joints were essential to Charles Limbert’s original rockers, but easy-to-cut floating tenons and our mortising jigs will help you achieve equally rugged results.
Start with the rockers
Each rocker (A) is made from 12 layers (laminations) of 1∕8"-thick material glued in layers around a bending form. To work within the glue’s open time, you’ll glue them up in three stages, as we'll explain in Step 3.
1 Cut 11 1∕2×8×42" MDF blanks for the rocker glue-up form. Mark and cut curves [Drawing 1, Photo A], and laminate the pieces. Sand the curve smooth, and cover the form top and sides with packing tape.
2 Resaw 24 3∕16×51∕2×42" oak strips and plane them to 1∕8" thick.
3 Glue up the first four layers and clamp them to the form [Photo B]. Allow the assembly to dry with the clamps in place overnight to minimize springback. Glue a second stage of four more layers on top of that, followed by the final four layers, allowing the glue to dry overnight between stages. Repeat for the other rocker.
4 Cut the rockers to 5×39" from tip to tip, but wait to cut profiles.
Make front and back legs
1 Build and label the five mortise-routing jigs shown on page 33.
2 Cut the front leg halves (B, C) 1∕2" overwidth. Bevel-rip and glue the front leg halves [Drawing 2]. Use Jig 1 to mortise the front leg assemblies (B/C) [Photo C].
3 Lay out two 7×38" blanks for the back legs (D) and cut their front edges to shape [Drawing 3]. Mark the centerline of each mortise pair. Rout the mortises for the slats (E) using Jig 2 [Photo D] and for the back rail (F) using Jig 3. 4 Mortise the back leg for the side rails (G) using Jig 1 [Drawing 2]. Finish cutting the back legs to shape.
Assemble the rails and back
1 Cut the slats and rails (E–H) to size. Cut the slat spacers (I) from 11∕2"-thick stock and set them aside.
2 Use Jig 4 to mortise the ends of the back slats (E) [Drawing 4, Photo E], and Jig 5 to mortise the back rail (F). Use Jig 1 to mortise the side rails (G) [Photo F] and front rail (H).
Shape and sand the back slats (E) [Drawing 5, Photo G] and front rail (H) [Drawing 2a].
To make floating tenons, cut 1/2×17/16×60" and 1/2×115/16×30" maple blanks. Rout 3/8" round-overs on all the edges without narrowing the strips. From the 17/16"-wide blank, cut 24 tenons 2" long. From the 115/16"-wide blank, cut 12 tenons 2" long.
Dry-assemble the legs (B/C, D), rails (F, G, H), and slats (E). Rip the slat spacers (I) to fit between the top two back slats (E), clamp them in position, and scribe the front and back curves [Drawing 4, Photo H]. Bandsaw and sand the spacers to shape, then glue them in place.
Assemble the chair frame
1 Dry-assemble a front leg (B/C), back leg (D), and side rail (G) to make two sides. Clamp a rocker (A) to the bottoms of the legs [Drawing 6], then scribe, cut, and sand to shape the bottoms of the legs. 2 Bandsaw the rockers to shape [Drawing 6]. Sand the rockers and frame parts B–H. 3 Glue the legs (B/C, D) to the side rails (G) [Photo I]. Glue and screw the rockers to the side assemblies [Exploded View, Photo J].
Note: Drill the counter-bored screw holes in the rockers perpendicular to the rocker— not parallel with the chair legs—to leave a round hole for the plugs.
4 Glue the slats (E, E/I), back rail (F), and front rail (H) to the side assemblies (A–D/G) [Drawing 2].
5 Cut the cleats (J) and braces (K) to size. Glue and screw them to the frame [Drawing 2]. Cut the seat (L) to fit and set it aside.
Attach the arms
1 Cut and rabbet the arm supports (M) [Exploded View]. Mortise the top ends using Jig 5.
2 Cut the arms (N) to shape, but without the notch at the narrow end [Drawing 7]. Mortise the arms using Jig 3, aligning the short edge of the jig with the inside edge of the arm.
3 Dry-assemble (without tenons) an arm support (M) and arm (N) on the side rail (G). Mark and notch the arm to match the angle of the back leg (D) [Photo K]. 4 Glue the arm supports (M) to the arms (N). Glue and screw the arm assemblies to the side rails (G) and back legs (D) [Exploded View]. Plug the counterbores. 5 Cut arm brackets (O) to shape [Drawing 8] and glue them in place [Exploded View].
Tip! If your lumber supplier charges more than twice as much for 8/4 stock as for 4/4, save money by cutting rocker laminations from 4/4 boards.
B Elevate the rocker form on blocks to provide clamp clearance on both sides and the ends. The shape of the form allows for minor springback.
A Pinch a 4' metal rule in a clamp to create a curve for the rocker forms. Then align the rule’s curve with marks on the ends and center.
D Back leg slat jig Jig 2Align the clamping tab edges of Jig 2 with the back edge of the back legs (D). Align the centerline on the jig with the centerline of a mortise pair.
¼" offset C Jig 1 Top endsCreate a ¼" offset between the side-rail edges (G) and the tops of the front legs (B/C) by shifting the edge of Jig 1 ¼" from the tops of the legs.
F Jig 1 spacerCenter the mortises on the side rail (G) ends by adding a 1∕8" spacer between Jig 1 and a side rail face. Use the same face for both ends.
E Jig 4Center Jig 4 on the end of a back slat (E). Place the jig’s clamping leg against the same face of each workpiece at both ends.
H When dry-assembled, the back slats (E) fit loosely enough to clamp the oversize slat spacers (I) between them.
G Contour the back slats (E) after boring mortises for the floating tenons.
Note: Remember to flip the pattern to mark rockers for a right and left profile.
Lightly clamp a rocker (A) to a side assembly without straightening the curve.
Glue the front legs (B/C) to the seat side rails (G) with a ¼" offset. Make the other end of the rail edge flush with where the back leg (D) angle starts.
K Butt the end of the arm (N) against the edge of the back leg (D) and use a 3"wide scrap to trace the angle of the leg onto the edge of the arm.