For his first curvilinear project, self-taught woodworker Brad Ferguson decided to go with something simple , a Sam Maloof-style rocking chair.
Ferguson (a field clinical engineer by day) has been woodworking on and off for years, but took up the craft seriously about a decade ago. He’s built a number of Shaker, Greene & Greene and Arts & Crafts-style projects, including six Morris chairs, a Stickley-style sofa and many cabinets for his house. He’s been a member of the Wood Whisperer Guild since its inception and he’s taken classes with such woodworking luminaries as Darrell Peart and David Marks. But until this build, Ferguson’s work was mostly based on straight lines.
But as it is for many woodworkers, Maloof’s iconic rocking chair was an aspirational piece for Ferguson. “It’s just one of those things that I’ve always wanted to build,” he says. “And after Sam passed away (in May 2009), I got more and more interested in it.”
For Christmas last year, Ferguson asked for and received Charles Brock’s “Build a Maloof Inspired Rocker,” which is comprised of a DVD, step-by-step instruction book and full-size patterns. And Ferguson says that Brock’s plans are much easier to follow than other Maloof rocker instructional books he’s bought.
We like Brock’s package a lot, too , so much so that it was one of the first woodworking plans not published by us that we wanted to carry , so it’s now available at WoodworkersBookShop.com.
“After watching the DVD and reading through the book, I thought, …?Heck , I can do that. It didn’t look too complicated…¦and it was really not as hard as I thought it was going to be,” Ferguson says.
So in April of this year, Ferguson carefully selected his walnut (Maloof’s signature wood), and got to work (and it didn’t hurt, he says, that walnut is a lot easier to carve than curly maple). And, he took readers along for the ride at TreeFrogFurniture, a woodworking blog he’s been writing since January of 2008. To read along with Ferguson’s build , complete with excellent detailed pictures that you can click on to enlarge , click here for the first post, and work your way forward.
And as we were talking, he reiterated that with the help of Brock’s jig templates, tool suggestions and instruction, the build was surprisingly simple. “I think you need some skills just to know how to use the tools, but I don’t think you have to be a really advanced woodworker. Of course, the more skills you have, the better it will turn out, but the woodworking isn’t that complex.”
Among the many things Ferguson found useful about Brock’s instruction is the word “inspired” , that is, you’re not building an exact replica of a Maloof chair; rather, you’re building your own chair inspired by the master’s design. It gave Ferguson the freedom to deviate a little from the plan. “I did make a few changes; there’s no ebony or maple inlay. I wanted to let the form speak for itself,” he says.
The build took him about 120 hours, almost all on weekends. While that may sound like a lot of time, it’s really only three work weeks in the shop, and as for many of us, the process is half the fun. “It’s my form of relaxation and meditation,” Ferguson says. “When I’m in the shop doing this, nothing else matters. It helps to relax me and I enjoy the process of making something that’s useful as well as beautiful.”
Not only did Ferguson get a beautiful chair out of the build, he also got to buy a new lathe (sadly, his friend’s lathe, the one he was planning to use, was broken). So now that his chair is done, Ferguson has been teaching himself to turn bowls. “We’ll see what comes next,” he says.
“Build a Maloof Inspired Rocker with Charles Brock” is available at WoodworkersBookShop.Com for $89.99 , and who knows , maybe one day a president will sit in your rocker, too.
– David Thiel (now editor of Popular Woodworking Books) built a Sam Maloof-style Sculpted-base Table; the story is free on our web site.