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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Continuous Arm Veneered Rocking Chair (ca.1920) Part 1

One of the pieces that I am currently working on for a customer is an upholstered continuous arm rocking chair. The chair is made of Birch and the arms are veneered with ribbon Mahogany. I could not find much in the way of history on this chair, but I think it comes from somewhere around 1920. The initial shape of the arms is cut using a bandsaw and then veneered over with a Mahogany. This technique in furniture making was introduced in the 1840's and can be seen on American Empire furniture. The claw foot on the rocker is machine carved.

When I received the rocker it had large sections of missing veneer on the arm and the joinery was loose. Below is a photo of the chair as it came to me. You can see that most of the veneer on the right arm (facing the chair) is missing.
This next photo shows the chair after the upholstery was removed.
This next photo shows the chair with the finish removed. The blue tape on the arm is holding a loose piece of the arm in place.
The chair had loose joinery, and it appears that it never had glue blocks in the rear of the seat frame. Glue blocks are pieces of wood glued and screwed to the frame in the inside corners to help add strength to the joints. The glue blocks on the front of the seat frame were nailed in place, so the the nails were replaced with screws and new blocks made for back. The loose joints were also spread apart and new glue put in place. The next two photos show the new glue blocks and then a photo of the frame getting glued up.

After the joinery was tightened, the next thing to do was to repair the veneer damage. The general idea of this is to clean the old glue from the damaged area, cut new veneer that will cover the space and attach it. After the glue is dried the excess glue is removed with hot water and the excess veneer is trimmed. Below are several shots of the veneer repair. I have put in captions to describe what is seen in each photo.
This is a photo of the right arm after the old glue was scraped from the Birch frame.

A long strip of veneer was assembled using smaller pieces taped together. This photo shows the glue being spread on the veneer.

Placing the veneer on the birch frame.

It is extremely important to clamp the entire surface area to prevent bubbles in the veneer. The easiest way to do this in this case was to use a  lot of clamps. I think every clamp in the shop may have been used here!

After the glue dried overnight, the clamps were removed and the veneer below was the new veneer. The blue tape is covering the seams in the veneer.

This photo shows the veneer being glued down on the left arm
The next few photos show the after the chair was sanded and the ultimately stained. The new veneer blends very well with the old and is hardly (if at all) noticeable.
The sanded chair ready for staining!

The right arm with its new veneer.

A patch on the left arm.
 The last two photos show the chair stained and ready for finish.


  1. I just garbage picked two chairs that look similar to this. They need some work but they seem pretty solid. I love your blog and how you post your progress. You do great work!

  2. This chair looks so much like a chair I have. Mine is not a rocker though and it has huge scroll arms. Love it!

  3. I have a chair exactly like this! Wondering what the value is???

  4. I have a chair exactly like this! Wondering what the value is???