Restoring Antique Rocking Chairs, or Rockers

MPF Conservation specializes in antique furniture restoration, furniture repair, antique upholstered furniture, and traditional woodworking.  This page documents various types of rockers.

American Victorian Rocker circa 1870, right.
Damaged finished painted pearly white oil paint over barrier to protect historic finish.
Showcover is Brunschwig & Fils.

In most cases, the rockers (and possibly footstools) below had a variation of the following performed on them. For the sake of brevity, we will only publish the differences in this list, under “Details”. Frames are often not completely disassembled due to issues in the frame or it is not necessary.

  • Excavated down to the frame
  • Cleaned all innards and set aside if they can be reused
  • Frame disassembled and joints repaired and reglued
  • Tacking margins filled with hardwood pins
  • Historic varnish was amended with several coats of pure shellac and rubbed to patina
  • Seat was traditionally upholstered and built-up with historic or appropriate fibers
  • Cotton batting topper
  • Muslin undercover encased entire object
  • New showcover

Note: In most instances frames are returned to their historic finish, however, occasionally clients want something a bit different, such as the severely damaged rocker shown above right, which had a pearly white painted finish applied over a barrier coat to protect the damaged shellac.

Mahogany Victorian Art Nouveau Platform Rocker circa 1880


  • The rocker frame was stable and did not need to be disassembled
  • The original tapestry was in good condition, and clean!
  • Seat pod lifted
  • Bench seat of horsehair pod restored
  • Original thick cotton tapestry replaced

Before, left, and after right.

Art Nouveau Rocker Ca. 1880

Previously conserved by Mitchell two decades ago. This is a testament to good upholstery, as it sits as nicely now as it did when it was restored. This time MPFC preserved the finish and upholstered a new showcover.

Details: Showcover is dupioni silk from Jim Thompson Silks; Passementerie by Houlès.

Before, left, and after right.

American Spool Walnut Rocker circa 1850

Details: Showcover is a decorative gros point from Brunschwig & Fils; trims and decorative nails from Houlès.

Windsor Rocker Ca. 1880

A family heirloom from the late 19th century, this rocker probably began its life as a wicker rocker (notice the cross woven seat around the needlepoint). The needlepoint was added by the previous owners, probably hand-made in the 20th century.

Details: The needlepoint was soiled. MPFC cleaned and blocked the needlepoint before reupholstering.

For each pair, before, left, and after right.

Victorian Press-back Rocker Ca. 1890

A family piece that needed repair and TLC. The rocker’s transparent resin varnish was original, but degraded from years of repeated applications of boiled linseed oil. The rocker glide was previously broken and improperly repaired. Joints were loose. The original tooled leather seat rotted through. MPFC opened all joinery to clean and re-glue with hide glue;


  • Repaired the broken rocker glide
  • Repaired the original finish before waxing. Warmed wax was allowed to cure then was burnished with wooden rags and felt blocks.
  • A new tooled seat was replaced using period appropriate decorative nails.

For each pair, before, left, and after right.

American White Oak Heywood-Wakefield Rocker Ca. 1890

A family piece with a steam-bent crest rail, carved lumbar rail, and barley twist rungs. that was abused. Entire frame joinery was loose and the left-facing arm was broken and missing four barley twist arm rungs. The original finish was dinged and dirty.


  • The historic tag beneath the seat was preserved with clear acrylic over the label.
  • New barley twists were turned then finished to replicate missing rungs.
  • Showcover is purple leather from Napa Leather

American Maple Child’s Rocker circa 1934

The mother grew up with this rocker and the needlepoint. The daughter made a new needlepoint for the seat. MPFC cleaned the historic needlepoint to be framed.


  • Quarter-sawn solids
  • Made by Associated Factories, Inc on lake Shore Drive and was sold by the Spokane Furniture Company.
  • The original filling material was cotton felt.

Our blogpost on this chair:

For each pair, before, left, and after right.

Heywood-Wakefield Child’s Rocker Ca. 1900

This was done as a donation for a fundraiser for Community Warehouse in Portland Oregon. Entire frame joinery was loose. The original finish was dirty. The chair was disassembled, joinery cleaned and re-glued, and the chair was clamped to cure level. The original finish was cleaned and an encaustic treatment was performed.

For a short blogpost on the treatment:

Upholstered Objects  includes sofas, loveseats, recamiers, sofa-beds, hassocks and many kinds of chairs. Some lightly upholstered chairs (seat only, as in Dining and Side Chairs or Stools) are found under Wooden Objects. Textiles are found in another section.