Lessons Learned - Mid-Century Rocking Chair




About: I'm the typical maker/DIY/nerd dad.

This Instructables will summarize the lessons learned (in some cases, relearned) while making a set of these groovy chairs.

The plans for the chairs were included in the book Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects by Mark Frauenfelder, which is where I got them.


So, here's a short list of what not to do...

Step 1: Plywood Lessons

First Lesson:

When drilling plywood, it's a good idea to take precautions in order to prevent the drill bit from splintering the wood as it comes out the other side.

I just did a quick internets search for "drilling plywood" and all sorts of links came up. It seems I'm not the only one who should have known better.

The silly thing is that I noticed the splintering after drilling the first hole, but I just kept on drilling the rest of the holes anyway, without doing anything different. I guess I was in a hurry, since these chairs were supposed to be a surprise for my kids.

Of course, patching the splintered holes ended up adding a significant amount of time (days) to the overall project, as compared to taking five minutes to find a suitable second piece of sacrificial wood to place underneath the piece being drilled.

Step 2: Coating Lessons

I love me some Minwax Polyshades!

I use this stuff all the time, so it's not surprising that I thought I knew what I was doing.

You know when the directions say to apply thin coats? That is sage advice.

I managed to produce some pretty funky ripple effects, and basically made a mess of things, by applying it too thick and heavy... even had to redo a few sections.

And when coating something with multiple colors, take the time to mask off areas that you are not wanting to cover. Otherwise, you end up having to wipe/sand/etc., those areas a second (or third) time.

Step 3: Stringing Lessons

Mark listed suggestion for using different materials for stringing up the chair, and of course I was most intrigued by the CAT5 cable idea.

Well, maybe it was the summer heat, maybe it was all those Snickers bars I ate, but the CAT5 cable just kept stretching to the point of breaking as more tension was applied.

I ended up using paracord. The local hardware store only had 50' lengths (each chair needs around 100'), which led to the two color idea.

Step 4: Tensioning Lessons

This is the part of the project where you should probably call in a favor (or two) and convince someone to help you, if you didn't have help already.

We tried multiple approaches to tightening the lengths of cord from the sides, but in the end, the easiest thing was to pull the sections of cord from the middle. We worked from bottom to top.

I was fortunate enough to have a fisherperson friend to ask for help, because she knew all the right knots to tie in order to keep the cords tight. Oddly enough, she used a trucker's hitch.

The 50' lengths both helped and hindered the tensioning process.

The shorter, interleaved sections of cord helped because we only had 50' lengths of cord to tension at one time, as opposed to 100' lengths. Basically, it was easier to take breaks.

The shorter, interleaved sections of cord hindered because there were two separate sources of tension on the chair, so there was a bit of adjustment required to get both cords to a similar tautness.

The loose ends of cord cleaned up with a few half-hitches... at least I think that's what they are called.

Step 5: Assembly Lessons

The thing about only looking at the directions once after downloading the pattern is that it was really easy to mount the back brace too high so that it dug into one's own back when sitting on the chair.

Luckily, the two side pieces didn't go PA-TOING when attempting to move the back brace pieces lower while under tension.

I haven't patched up the first set of holes yet... this is to teach myself a lesson, or something.

Step 6: Ta-Daa!

Despite all that, these chairs seem to have turned out just fine.



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    15 Discussions

    Love how you explained all this, it was really funny xD Um...This chair though..Is it....Comfortable? I'd think you have lines all over your butt! I love this though, it makes me think of a more sophisticated version of those fold up metal frame chairs with only bungie cord to hold you up xD

    2 replies

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it's actually very comfortable. Lines on one's butt isn't really such a big deal... makes for an interesting conversation starter?


    4 years ago



    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Did it require many tools? Not very many. I used a jigsaw, belt sander, and drill. Oh, and a screw-driver and wrench for the screws. And wood glue.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Desipte the hardships and life lessons....they look great!...I guess now its time for round two and putting those newly acquired sage tactics to work!

    Great job!!

    1 reply

    I appreciate the kind words. And now that I have documented these lessons, I should be more likely to remember and apply them, right?


    4 years ago

    not all cat5 cable is the same. you might want to consider solid core vs stranded for the future.

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    It came out great. Makes me want to test drive it. I liked that you included what not to do also.

    1 reply

    Thanks... hopefully others can save some time and reduce the number of potential headaches by not doing what I did.