What is it about a rocking chair that makes them universally loved? Almost anyone who has had a cranky infant or baby will testify to the calming, soothing effect of one. Kids naturally love them, and are often scolded by parents for rocking with too much gusto. And research is showing that the kinetic motion of rocking releases endorphins, which has holistic benefits that include improved mood and improved physical well being. Rocking Chair Therapy has been shown to speed up recovery from severe illness, improve balance and lessen anxiety and depression in nursing home residents, calm children with ADD and ADHD, lessen the pain of arthritis, and is highly recommended for the recovery of knee replacement surgery. But mostly what we all like about a rocking chair is that it feels good.
Which brings me to Hal Taylor. Of all the rocking chairs in the world, the chairs that Hal makes are the most comfortable and the most exquisitely beautiful.
About ten years ago I met Hal at a neighbor’s 4th of July party. We have kids around the same age, we are both around the same age, we’re both originally from the mid-west, and we are both drawn to a creative lifestyle. We hit it off, and later on I found out about his rocking chairs. He had had some photos done professionally, but I convinced him that I could do a better job. I thought Hal’s chairs were the most beautiful, and the most comfortable rocking chair I had ever rocked in. While the basic architecture has stayed the same, over the years Hal has refined certain elements. The biggest change I have seen is in the arm and the the arm support.
Notice too the seat design as it has become more refined and graceful. Originally Hal worked the seats by hand, but a few years ago got a CNC machine to do the bulk of the work. The joining is exquisite, and always has been. One of the first things you notice about Hal’s chairs is the seamlessness of them – all these different parts fit together as if the chair was cast in a mold.
Apart from all of the extraordinary and well thought out design in the rest of the chair, Hal’s creation of a unique chair back is what completely separates his chairs from all the rest. Each slat is laminated from several pieces of wood, all carefully chosen for their grain structure, pattern, and color. The slats are glued together, and then clamped to a form. When the glue dries, what Hal has is a set of wooden springs. These ‘spring’ slats are held in place in the headrest and seat in holes that are just a bit bigger than the dowel end of the slat. So now when you sit and rock, not only do the slats ‘spring’ with your movement, the slats also have a bit of movement. This all combines to give you the most comfortable rocking chair experience ever.
The George Washington Rocker is a one of a kind. Not the design, but the wood. The chair is made from a 200 year old walnut tree that was removed from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Plantation in order to rebuild the distillery. Hal joked that maybe it was the all the spirits that inevitably spilled into the ground that gave this particular tree its unique grain pattern.
I have enjoyed photographing Hal’s chairs, but I like sitting in one even better! To learn more about Hal Taylor and his rocking chairs visit his website – www.haltaylor.com. Hal also teaches woodworkers how to build his chair at his Rocking Chair University, and also sells plans for the chair. Visit his Rocking Chair University website for more information on working with Hal to build your own chair, get plans, and look at some of the amazing work the ‘graduates’ of Hal’s School have done.
Scroll down to see a few more photos of Hal’s chairs!