Rocking Chair House

To honor Worth Lutz 

 worth lutz

Worth Lutz, pictured here, is the founder of Habitat for Humanity of Durham and the man many call Durham Habitat’s ‘heart and soul.’   Worth founded our Geezers and Blitz Teams, and he recently celebrated his 80th birthday.    Worth has yet again made a significant contribution to Durham Habitat by donating one of his beautiful handmade rocking chairs to help raise funds to start another Habitat house, Habitat’s 300th home in Durham since 1985!  

At a recent Habitat gathering, former board member Fran Langstaff suggested using Worth’s rocking chair to raise funds to sponsor a Habitat house in Worth’s honor?  Her idea was to sell 100 raffle tickets for Worth’s chair at $500 per ticket, thus raising the $50,000 home sponsorship needed to get building started on another Habitat home. 

It’s a great idea and we’ve almost reached our goal.   Please join us in celebrating Worth Lutz, his birthday, and his contribution to Habitat and Durham by buying one of the 30 tickets left to build our 300th Habitat home in Durham, the Rocking Chair House to honor Worth! 

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When you make your donation, include "Worth House" in the comment box.  

worth rocking chair

Worth’s chair, handcrafted from black walnut (pictured above - also available in cherry) and harvested from the Lutz’s property, is a copy of a design by Sam Maloof, a   world-renowned designer who shared his talent with Worth.  Worth spends upwards of 250 hours on each chair and he has given several chairs to Habitat friends in honor of their significant contributions ($5,000+) to Habitat.  Sam Maloof's work is in the collections of several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan have both owned


Read on to learn more about the chair and the process of turning a slab of wood into a Worth Lutz rocker…

Some years ago Worth attended a Sam Maloof workshop, copied templates for the chair parts (with Maloof's permission) and learned the basics of Mr. Maloof's craft. Since then, Worth has spent countless hours constructing replicas of the Maloof rocker.                        

Worth and slab 

The process begins by selecting the right wood.   For Worth's purposes, this slab is priceless-not only because of size and thickness, but because the curves are perfect for Worth's chairs in that the rocker rear leg conforms to the curves of the slab of wood.   One would have a hard time finding this slab at the sawmill because the mill values straight trees more for their commercial value.  Because of cracks and other defects, Worth estimated this slab would yield only 2 or 3 legs from this curved segment.   

We should mention that the tree fell on Worth's property, was moved to his sawmill with a front-end loader and after milling was air-dried for at least 2 years.  


maloof joint


The rough cut template of a front leg is attached to the seat using a unique joint created by Maloof. It increases the volume of joint surface sufficiently that no cross members between chair legs are necessary. The joint is created using a table saw, a router with rabbeting and round over bits, and meticulous attention to detail.


seat w clamp


After outlines of the various chair parts are cut with a bandsaw, the seat segments are glued together and the contour of the seat is shaped using a grinder that is capable of removing lots of wood. The chair parts are temporarily held together with clamps to allow for final adjustments.


clamp crest


The crest is temporarily held in place to determine location and angle for the spindles as they fan out from the seat.


gluing rocker


The rocker itself is made by gluing multiple 1/8" inch strips together, and using multiple clamps to create the signature curves that mark the Maloof design.

worth sanding


After rough shaping with grinder and rasp the long process of sanding begins; using 80 through 320 grit with a random orbit sander followed by steel wool and finally, 6 coats of the Maloof finish: equal parts of varnish, linseed oil and tung oil.   Worth spends at least 250 hours building each chair.


worth in rocker


Note the flowing lines of the chair parts-rounded at intersections-a result of sculpting with rasp and extensive sanding-and the long rocker with a downward curve to prevent tipping over backward.  That may be the function, but the shape is a Maloof trademark.   Maloof rockers which sell at prices ranging between $20,000 - $50,000.  We may be biased, but we feel a Worth rocking chair is even more meaningful.  

The raffle is limited to 100 tickets, and all gifts are tax deductible.  The drawing will be held at the home build kickoff and blessing of the Rocking Chair House in mid-July.  Tickets are $500 each, and one person may buy as many tickets as they’d like.  Each participant will receive a commemorative rocking chair lapel pin. 

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Habitat Success Stories

Pearlie's home was so damaged that neighbors thought it was abandoned. Habitat partnered with the City of Durham to replace Pearlie's roof, a damaged wall, and exterior siding. Pearlie said, "It lifts my spirits. Habitat volunteers are beautiful people."