Rocking chairs have timeless appeal, as many become cherished family heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next. Although it may look simple, the design of a rocking chair is quite complex. One element that many of these chairs share is the phenomenon of the “walking” rocking chair. This unintended movement of the chair occurs when someone sits in the chair and rocks it. Understanding why the chair moves helps in finding a solution to stop it from happening.
How It Wanders
Designing a well-functioning rocking chair requires artistry in woodworking and a bit of mathematical engineering. The radius of the rockers or runners in relation to the seat height affects how well the chair rocks. The position of the chair’s legs along the runners affects how the sitter’s weight is distributed, which also affects how well it rocks. In addition, the height of the person using the chair is yet another factor in function, as the sitter’s feet should be in firm contact with the floor. According to Bill Hylton, a designer and craftsman of rocking chairs, both runners must have identical curves and must be mounted parallel to each other. Otherwise, the chair will walk across the floor when rocking.
An ideal solution for permanently fixing a walking rocker involves some fine-tuning of the chair. Check the arc of the runners to see if a malfunction in this area could be causing the sliding problem. If the arc of one runner is slightly higher than the other, careful shaving the runner with a plane may help correct the discrepancy. Check the position of the runners to see if they are running parallel to each other. Also check the joinery, ensuring the legs are firmly attached to the seat and to the runners. Consider taking your chair to a professional who designs, makes or repairs rocking chairs to see if fine tuning the runners, the legs, the seat height or pitch of the chair will help the chair’s function and stop it from wandering.
Tie It Up
If you can't alter or fine-tune the rocker, you can always turn to less-invasive, temporary solutions to keep the chair in place. If you have a chair placed near a wall or in the corner of a room, an inconspicuous tether can be used to hold the chair in place. However, this will only work on a chair with forward movement. If your rocker is a backslider, you’ll need to try something else. Install a small screw eye to the back of the chair’s bottom rung and another one into the baseboard directly behind the chair. Connect the two screw eyes with a cord.
Add Some Friction
Walking rockers actually slide as they rock. Their sleek wood runners slide over many surfaces, making the best solution for keeping them in place a matter of trial-and-error in most cases. On slick floors such as hardwood and tile, you can try covering the floor, covering the bottom of the chair’s runners, or both. Carpet tiles are designed to stick to each other, and you only need to connect a few to design a “rug” for your rocking chair. A non-slip rug pad underneath also helps keep it in place. If the chair is still sliding over the carpet tiles, try attaching some self-adhesive felt pads or a strip of velvet to the bottom of the runners, as these materials are suggested for carpeted floors. You could also try self-adhesive rubber furniture pads on hard flooring. Use the square pads, trimming them to the width of the runner and butting each piece up against the next one, going the length of the runner that comes into contact with the floor when rocking.
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