Crest Rails

walnut rocker crest rail, close up

The crests are the hardest parts to find in the stock.
We look for them first and rarely find more crest rails in a quantity of wood
than the number of chairs such a quantity will make.


We select the crest rails so that the growth rings are parallel to a horizontal centerline. This means that we often don't work off the edge of the board.

rocking chair crest rail layout

Like most chair parts, the crest is rough cut at the bandsaw.

Will bandsawing rocking chair crest

If the growth rings are parallel to the surface of the crest rail blank and the heart faces out when we mark for the cut, lovely and symmetrical parabolas are revealed.

five rocking chair crest rails, rough cut

We laminate the crest to obtain the necessary curve.
Most crest rails in chairs are too flat for comfort.

Will laminating crests

We have built many jigs, fixtures, and machines to facilitate the work on the crests. Some examples:


These curved surfaces and mortises are precise.
The mortises lie along the curve equidistant from the edge (within a tolerance of .005").


We use a machine we built to sand the concave curves of the crest rail and other parts. I thought I had invented it, but later found out that such machines are common in areas where furniture has traditionally been manufactured. It's called, appropriately, a chair back sander.

Bonner with rocking chair crest at chairback sander

The crest rail is further--much further--shaped, sculpted, and sanded.

Note the end protectors which allows us to freely work off the end of the crest, or drop it, without smudging the curve or damaging the joining surface. We remove the protectors just before assembly--leaving a crisp, true, clean edge and profile.

rocking chair crest rail progress