How to Make a Really Awesome Children's Rocker
Step 1: Purchase and Prepare the Rocker
You can make a really great personalized rocker, but if you're like me, you'll have to find and purchase a children's rocking chair first. My source is Michael's Arts & Crafts--if you can hold out for a 50% off coupon, the $50 rocker can be had for $25. I've been painting rockers for almost 15 years and these rockers have stood the test of time. Once you've purchased the unfinished wood rocker, you'll want to add some wood filler putty to the 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 for the next step.
Step 2: Prime and Add the Base Paint
Your second step is to prime the chair using a good acrylic-based stain blocker primer. You can find a variety of primers from the major hardware stores--Home Depot or Lowe's. Just make sure you stick with acrylic primers and acrylic paints. The primer is tough on brushes, so I typically use a relatively cheap brush when priming the chair. You'll also need a smaller craft brush to reach between the cracks of the seat planks. The primer tends to dry fast. Use a light coat, and if you end up with drips down the side of the chair, you may have to lightly sand the chair again to minimize the drip markings.
With the primer dried, you are now ready to add the base paint. I like to use two different colors. I design chairs according to personal requests and very often, customers are trying to match the colors of a room or children's bedding. Sometimes I have total leeway and I simply choose the colors that will go well with the theme. I prefer using the acryllic craft paints, again found at Michael's, for all of my painting, though you can use interior acrylic house paint as a base coat if you prefer. The larger bottles of paint or several bottles of the smaller sized paint bottles should do for the base paint. You will need at least two coats of base paints for good coverage. You don't need to be perfect as you paint. But just make sure you fix your mistakes before you move onto the next step. Also a little warning--some colors require multiple layers (red, for example) to get good coverage, and the higher priced acrylics tend to perform better.
Step 3: Select a Design and Transfer Drawing to Chair
There will be a theme for your 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. Once you've found a couple of good ideas, 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 also an option, especially for the chair arms.
Once you have your design, how do you get it on the chair? Look for transfer paper at Michael's or other craft store (this is like 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). Basically, you will 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.
Step 4: Decorate and Finish
Now you've come to the fun part! The design is drawn onto the chair; though anticipate that not all the details will transfer. Select your paint colors and have fun completing the rocker. 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--make sure you have a liner as you'll need to add details. Once you've completed your masterpiece, just 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.
Once the paint is dry and you are satisfied with the end product, use two light coats of glossy acrylic clear spray paint on both sides of the chair. Let the chair dry sufficiently between coats. The glossy finish will add sheen to the chair and adds a good protective layer against dirt and spills that the chair is likely to endure over time.
That's it! These rockers make absolutely fantastic gifts for new (and used) parents. They take a fair amount of time to complete, so start early. Enjoy!
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