Work in Progress – Folding Rocking Chair
20 Feb 2021
The other day I was enjoying our rocking chair in the apartment when I came to two realizations:
- It would be nice to transport this experience to an outdoor gathering and
- It would be nice if this chair didn’t take up so much floor space when it wasn’t being used
This all led me to ask the question: how might we create a transportable, floor-space friendly rocking chair?
Note that this project is still in a relatively early phase, with physical modeling and kinematic design iteration still necessary. Still, I’d love to share where I am at right now, and showcase a little of my design thought process.
My first thought was to create a folding rocking chair. Now, folding rocking chairs already exist out there. But there are a few obvious problems to me about the ones that are already out there. For one, they’re all aesthetically lacking. Most of the ones I was able to find have a plastic beach chair or camping chair look about them. While that does mean that they are made out of a sporty, light material, I would love to include shapes that feel more modern. Secondly, it is not immediately obvious how all of them fold. It is my belief that products ought to feel intuitive and natural when using them. For example, consider the basic, metal folding chair we’ve all experienced at various seminars and school assemblies in our lives. While it was not comfortable or aesthetically pleasing, it is very obvious how it folds up: one pull on the seat collapses the whole structure into an easily store-able form. How might we include that in our folding rocking chair design?
Admittedly my first pass at this chair has failed on pretty much all of the requirements I set out for myself. It does not improve much aesthetically speaking on the already existing forms, and it has far too many degrees of freedom to be considered user friendly. I will need to go back to the drawing board. For now, I am considering the various forms of link kinematics I have studied as a mechanical engineer.
Because I have the added constraints of the rockers on the bottom and my own desire to include an armrest, the links are going to be more complicated than your standard folding chair.
Another option is to break out of the standard folding chair form entirely. Could a rocking chair that accordions on itself across its midline be feasible here? This is another interesting possibility I might explore further. One question would be how to create an accordion chair that minimizes material (for lower weight) and can also stand up to the possible fatigue resulting from constantly being bent and then widened again.
Finally, this project would benefit greatly from physical iteration in addition to computer modeling. Unfortunately, due COVID19, I do not have access to the makerspaces I might normally have. Instead, I may make some cardboard models in the future as a way of physically prototyping in the current constraints of life.