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how to make an awesome children's rocking chair

How to Make an Awesome Children’s Rocking Chair

July 23, 2017

Happiness comes in many forms.  For me, moments spent with a paint brush in my hand are happy times.  I’ve been painting children’s rockers for almost 20 years and never get tired of seeing the huge grin on people’s faces when I deliver the rocker.  It’s a win-win in the happiness spectrum.  If you’d like to make the perfect gift that will never be topped, you can make a personalized children’s rocking chair too.  Here are the steps to make an awesome rocker.

Step 1: Purchase and Prepare the Rocker

The only source of unfinished rockers I have been able to find is Michael’s Arts & Crafts – wait for the 50% off coupon.  And be forewarned that the smaller Michael’s stores may not carry the rockers and you can’t buy them online.  The last I checked, the cost was around $50 at full-price. Once you’ve purchased the unfinished wood rocker, you’ll want to use some wood filler putty to fill staple holes and then lightly sand the rocker – I use a small Black & Decker mouse, which does the trick. Brush off the wood dust and your rocker is now ready to paint.

Step 2: Add the Base Paint

Your second step is to add the base paint.  You have a couple of choices. Most of my chairs were painted using acrylic primer and acrylic paints.  But lately, the quality of milk and chalk paints are worth checking out.  The chalk paints in particular don’t require primer and have earned rave reviews. I like to use two different colors to add some interest to the rockers. You don’t have to be perfect at this stage. It’s paint!  Just make sure you fix your mistakes before you move onto the next step.  And keep in mind that some colors (like red and orange) will require several coats to get decent coverage. Generally, the higher priced paints tend to perform better.

Step 3: Select a Design

Perhaps the toughest part of the job is selecting a design for the chair.  Over the years, I’ve had some unique requests, such as painting the old family farm and the cliffs of Lorelei. Most of the time I ask people to come up with a theme for the chair – princess, jungle, ocean, elephants, sports, and so on. I find ideas and artwork through an Internet search. Poster art sites are excellent sources. If I am matching a room theme, I ask customers to send me a link to the room décor or bedding that they’ve selected for the child’s room. Some customers have even given me photos that I’ve had to recreate.

And this is a good time to provide a warning. Images are copyrighted so you can’t just download Wonder Woman and make a huge profit from the chairs. If you plan to turn this into a business, you’ll have to make your own designs.

Once you’ve found a couple of good graphics, you can improvise. I often print the artwork in larger proportion for the seat design and will downsize it for the chair backs and arms. I’ve also taken bits and pieces of different posters or drawings and made my own designs on large sketching paper. You can be creative. Stencils are always an option, especially for the chair arms.

Step 4: Transfer the Images to the Chair

Once you selected the design, how do you get it on the chair? Look for transfer paper at Michael’s or other craft stores (similar to the old carbon paper that used to be used in typewriters pre-computer days). I have both white and black tracing paper. The color you use depends on the tone of the base colors (use white paper on dark bases, black paper on light bases). All you need to do is trace the design onto the chair. Oh, one more tip: You can play with various fonts on your word processing software to make a great-looking name, and then trace it onto the chair back.

Step 5: Decorate and Finish

Now you’ve come to the fun part! You’ve drawn the design onto the chair and it’s time to pick out your paint colors and have fun completing the rocker. I use the small acrylic craft paints, which have an endless variety of colors. Don’t be afraid to paint over a pattern with a new color if you aren’t happy with your first choice. Expect that you will need at least two coats for good coverage. It’s helpful to have a variety of different sized craft brushes. Especially make sure you have a good quality liner brush for adding fine details. When you’ve completed your masterpiece, go over everything again to make sure there aren’t any stray paint marks or mistakes that need to be covered. You might want to consider adding your initials and a personal message to the bottom of the rocker seat to make it even more special for the recipient.

Congratulations!  You’ve reached the final task. Spray both sides of the chair with two light coats of glossy acrylic clear spray paint. Let the chair dry sufficiently between coats. The glossy finish will add sheen to the chair and protect it from dirt and spills.

That’s it! These rockers make absolutely fantastic gifts for new (and not so new) parents. They take a fair amount of time to complete, so start early. Enjoy!

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Dr. Brenda

Dr. Brenda is a sociologist, financial coach, and full-time RVer. Her offerings include the Gutsy Women Finance community, the Financial Freedom Academy, and Financial Freedom for Women Workshops.

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