Beyond just a rocking chair

Making a Craftsman-style Rocking Chair in Oak




















I think making chairs can be challenging to any woodworker and even experienced furniture makers avoid making chairs and are indeed daunted by the very thought of designing them. This course changes all of that and some of our students attending the New Legacy workshops had scarcely picked up a sharp chisel or plane before launching into the chairs you see on this page. In fact, some of the students you have seen in the past few months complete one of the chairs had spent only a few days at the school before we set them with the task.

Craftsman style, craftsman training and craftsman work

The ever-popular Craftsman-style furniture lends itself to first-level chairmaking because of its seemingly clean and simple lines, 90-degree angles and chunky sections of solid hardwood. I designed this rocking chair from an original, heavier and clunkier model, and then further refined some of the details I considered important to skill development and working knowledge. Developing intuition and the intuitive skills a craftsman or woman relies on in their work comes only through experiencing a wide range of distinct happenings most people never have. It’s a sad day that even woodworkers have never experienced the type of woodworking I’m talking about, but they may well understand the shortcoming of what could well have been.




















For about 18 years I have taught each aspect of the month-long workshop I just concluded and especially the Craftsman-style Rocking Chair. This is an important piece in the development of furniture making skills and so it features highly in our curriculum for working wood and especially so for developing hand skills. Over 300 woodworkers have learned to make chairs following this course curriculum and dozens more have made the more advanced rocking chairs shown below.

To get this course out to hundreds more than I might otherwise be able to train at the New Legacy schools, we have made this workshop our feature article to open the new year with on our Online Broadcast. So, in addition to our hands-on, at-the-bench workshops, in less than one month we will be releasing our next series for training woodworkers around the globe. This will be one of the most substantive works released through online broadcast and we anticipate that this will be about a 12-week course.

The main thrust behind this course is not so much to make a very nice heirloom piece but to fully understand both the complexities and simplicities of chairmaking. It takes my students about 50-60 hours to make the chair and that includes the upholstery and finishing once the woodworking is done.

It might surprise you that the chair shown here is one I developed for an article of concepts of design I wrote for Woodwork magazine about ten years ago. I took the basic proportions from my Craftsman-style rocker and used them and the proportions to develop my now famous Brazos Rocker, which has been made for dozens of retirement gifts and even one of the Presidents of the USA who now owns three of my designs.

This is what our course in chairmaking and the Craftsman-style rocking chair is all about. It was developed to establish hand tool  skills using methods and techniques that provide increased levels of versatility otherwise impossible to achieve using woodworking machines alone.



  1. This is awesome. So glad I am signed up for the online program. The subtle nuances in this chair are wonderful

  2. This chair is beautiful. How do I go about getting the plans or dimensions of this chair. I’m sure I could come up with something from just the picture, but is there a way to pay for the plans, or…? I’m referring not to the rocker but the side chair specifically.

    1. We are about to release this Craftsman-style rocking chair making series as a future online broadcast. There amy possibly also be a PDF with it. That depends on my time, which is very rare.

      1. Hi Paul and Team
        Just wondering if this project is available yet? I have your 7DVD set and am hungry for more…

  3. I built one of these chairs about nine years ago from the plans in Woodwork magazine for a nephew when he and his wife had their first child. Now I am currently building another for myself. My wife calls it my “retirement rocker”. This chair is surprisingly simple yet extremely challenging. I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of building both of them. I highly recommend it as a project for anyone looking to further their handtool skills. Thanks for the great design.

    1. Jerry, I have been searching for a copy of the plans for this rocker since seeing it in the Popular Woodworking e-mail but haven’t had any luck. Would you be willing to send me a copy from your magazines? I’ll pay for the copies, postage and your trouble, etc. Thank you
      Frank Ryan

  4. How do I figure out the right curvature for the rockers, if i want to build a similar rocking chair by myself without referring to a specific given plan or layout?

    I want to give it my own design and shape, but could not yet figure out, how to shape the rockers, so they will work. Is there an overall answer or does the shape depend on the specific weight distribution of my design?

    Thank you

    1. Cut some prototypes and try them on the rocker. Move them around, forwards backwards and see how the rocker lies, feels, rocks. Use screws to screw them on temporarily.

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