The hand made rocking chair must have very well-designed arm rests, because the arms are used in many different ways.
There are at least 6 different things that relate to them. Here are some examples.
This seems simple, but it is tricky to accomplish. Since there are two arms, they must appear balanced and have a pretty uniform grain pattern. If one is significantly different than the other, it creates a visual distraction that makes the chair seem unbalanced. This is also true of the arms' sizes. Fat arm rests look out of place on a delicately designed, custom rocker.
Hand made rocking chair makers use this principle in various degrees, some more successfully than others. If the craftsman pays attention to the shape of the lower side of the forearm, the corresponding shape of the arm rest is fairly self-evident. But, experience coupled with trial and error brings out the best fit.
You can see in the photos below how the top surface of the arm rest slopes deeply towards the seat. That fits the lower forearm muscle very comfortably. The arm rest also levels out toward the hand, just like your own arm.
Arm rests that are too long or short are irritating. They force you to extend or shorten your arm placement, creating a limited number of comfortable positions.
Also, if the pitch of the arm rest angle is too steep or low, you feel like you're either driving a bus or reaching under the dash! To avoid these complications and many others, I have created this measurement information page to help you.
One of the most crucial arm rest parts of the custom rocker is the open space for the elbow. This joint is very sensitive and must not press hard on the arm rest. If this happens, I consider the whole chair a failure, because your comfort is very important. A hand made rocking chair with a well designed arm rest will leave your poor elbow alone!
The place where the arm rest attaches to the back is critical for your comfort. If this point is too high, then you must hunch your shoulders upwards in order to use the arm rests. That becomes tiring very quickly.
If it is too low, then your arms feel like they are dangling and unsupported. There is a measurement on the form indicated above that helps eliminate this uncertainty so that you can be sure of getting the right fit.
Part of the joy of using a custom rocker is curling your fingers over the front edge of the arm rests. When the ends are made just right, touching them is a very soothing experience. They fit the fingers very well and encourage gentle rubbing which brings peace of mind.
There are other aspects to arm rests that are important to the success of the rocker, such as strength, joints and finish. Strong arm wood will increase the life of the chair.
Good, tight-fitting joinery is also very important to resist the pushing and pulling forces commonly associated with the arm rests. And finally, a good, durable finish will enhance and protect this important part of your hand made rocking chair.
To learn more about rocking chairs in general, click here on the Best Rocking Chairs link.