Shaping a Maloof-Inspired Sculpted Rocker Spindle

Video - June 7, 2015

raspsThis year, I finally decided to take on a Maloof-Inspired Sculpted Rocker and we’re building it right now in the Guild. One of the most elegant parts of the chair is the contoured back, consisting of seven sculpted spindles. In this video, I show you exactly how I shape those spindles using two rasps: a Combination Rasp (#5/#9) and a Small Modeler’s Rasp (7″, #13) rasps. If you’re looking for a nice “starter set” try this Auriou Rasp Set. Keep in mind, Auriou rasps are pricey and there are other brands out there like Nicholson that could save you a few bucks.

Because I don’t consider myself very artistic, I make extensive use of guidelines whenever I do my sculpting. For the spindles, one simple guideline will do the trick. The line is drawn on the side about 1/8″ down from the front surface. I can then crown the front of the spindle to that line and follow that up with a heavier roundover that terminates at the same line.

chamferNot only am I systematic in my layout, but my rasp technique as well. Before I actually try to create any sort of round surface, I start by making a flat chamfer. The chamfer removes the bulk of the material and gives me a reference point I can use as a starting point for the final round shape.

This systematic approach is especially helpful when you need to create more than one of something, as is the case here when I have to create seven spindles. They all need to look the same and for me, a systematic approach is the only way to accomplish that.

round-tenonThe final detail I put on the spindle is a sculptural one: a round tenon. The end of the spindle is worked to a rough square first, then a rough cylinder. I then use  Veritas Tenon-Cutters (1/2″ and 3/8″) to create a perfect round tenon. These tenon cutters work just like a giant pencil sharpener and the results are surprisingly good!

Obviously, there’s a lot more to building this chair than just the shaping of the spindles, so if you’re interested in step-by-step instructions, check out the Wood Whisperer Guild.

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