Passing around Texas this week I ended up sitting in the ever-famed Cracker Barrel rocker. Cracker Barrel is a Southwest style restaurant with a sales area selling everything associated with southern living. I first saw these rockers when they were selling for $99 back in the late 80s. They’ve been a consistent seller and though the cost around twice as much today, they still sell well. Here’s the thing though. A rocking chair like this can be made from 95% machine turned components which would take only minutes to make. A machine will turn a single rail in seconds, as fast as five seconds a piece including perfect tenon sizing within a thou’.
I remember someone coming in my shop and thinking to pay me a compliment said of my rocking chair, “I do believe I like this rocker as much as the ones sold in Cracker Barrel!” Mine took me two weeks to make working ten hours a day, six days a week. I thanked her for her gracious comment graciously as she left the workshop. Mine was made from mesquite I’d cut from the wilder climes of the Texas Hill country and air dried for two years. Oh well!
The cost of the CB rockers is still good value for the money. In most countries the cost of the rocker will be the cost of the wood should you make your own. Buying from Cracker Barrel online means a little self assembly and so they cost a little less than at the store itself. The thing about rockers is they are a one size fits all because by scooting your bum forward or backward you alter the centre of gravity to suit what you want and your weight/size etc. It may not be best for posture but you can make them fit. I thought about turning one for online to show how it can be done efficiently. It’s quick, but you can also make them completely without any lathe too, with just a #4 smoothing plane for rounding the dowels and the posts.
Cracker Barrel rockers are made from hardwoods, mostly oak but painted versions, “made from knot-free solid hardwood.”, look like they could be from softer poplar to me. The reality is that their rockers see no hand work as such at all, for the home maker of furniture these rockers could be hand turned in home workshops comfortably in half a day and assembled in about an hour. Sizing everything by eye minimises measuring and so speeds things up of course. With just a few routed mortise and tenons, the parts are jointed by bored holes – very fast. I noticed gaps at the shoulder lines of the tenons so either the tenons were too long or the posts were not dried down enough and so shrank away from the shoulders. You can see that the posts were all abraded to final 150-grit smoothness.