Designing the leg

Make a template from a piece of й-inch plywood or hardboard cut to the same length and width as your leg blanks. The design shown above at top will yield an attractive, stable, and well-proportioned leg, but you can alter the pattern to suit your project or copy the design of an existing leg that appeals to you. Begin drawing the leg by outlining the post block. Make its length equal to the width of the lower rail that will be attached to it, plus the height of the lower chest’s side panels. The width of the post block should be adequate to accept the rail tenon. Later, it will be notched (page 116) to accept the quarter columns of the lower chest. Next, sketch the pad and the toe, then the front of the leg from the toe to the ankle using a french curve; at its narrowest point, the diameter of the ankle should be about two-fifths the stock width. Move on to the knee, sketching a gentle curve from the post block to the front edge of the template about 2 to 3 inches below the block. Then join the knee to the ankle with a relatively straight line. Complete the outline at the back of the leg, from the ankle to the bottom of the post block (above). Experiment until you have a satisfactory design.

2 Transferring the design to the leg blanks

Cut out your template on a band saw, then sand the edges to the marked out­line. Hold the template flat on one of the inside faces of the leg blank, making sure that the ends of the template and the blank are aligned and that the back of the post block is flush with the inside edge of the blank. Trace along the edges of the template to outline the leg. Turn the blank over and repeat the procedure on the other inside face (right). At this point, some woodworkers prefer to prepare the legs and rails for the joinery before cutting the leg. (It is easier to clamp and cut a mortise in a rectangular leg blank, for example, than to carry out the same procedures on a leg with pronounced curves.) Other woodworkers cut the leg first and then do the joinery.


Cutting one face

Set the leg blank on the band saw table with one of the marked outlines fac­ing up and the bottom of the leg pointing away from you. Aligning the saw blade just to the waste side of the marked line for the back of the leg, feed the stock into the blade. Turn off the saw about halfway through the cut and remove the workpiece. Then cut along the same line from the opposite end. To avoid detaching the waste piece from the blank and losing the marked outline on the adjacent face, stop the cut about H inch from the first kerf, leaving a short bridge between the two cuts. Retract the workpiece, then cut along the line for the front of the leg (left), again leaving bridges to prevent the waste wood from falling away.

4 Completing the cuts and severing the bridges

Turn over the blank so that the marked outline on its adjacent side is facing up. Cut along the marked lines, beginning with those along the front of the leg, then the back (above). This time, complete the cuts, letting the waste fall away. Then rotate the blank and cut through the bridges left during your first cuts (right).



Forming the pad

Use a compass to outline the circular pad on the bottom of the leg. Then secure the leg in a vise, with the bottom end fac­ing up, and use a backsaw to cut away the bulk of the waste surrounding the outline. Make two series of cuts, starting with four cuts straight into the end of the leg at the corners, then sawing around the end of the leg to sever the corners. Next, secure the leg in a bar clamp, lock the clamp in a vise, and use a pattern­maker’s rasp to round the corners of the pad. Continue until the pad is circular (right), rotating the leg in the clamp as necessary. Use a file to smooth the pad.

2 Shaping the foot

Reposition the clamp in the vise so the foot is tilted down. Holding the pat­ternmaker’s rasp at an angle of approx­imately 45° to the leg, begin by shaping the contour from the bottom up (above). Rotate the leg in the clamp as neces­sary so that you can shape the foot all the way around. Smooth the surface using a double-cut flat bastard file, then finish the job with sandpaper, using progressively finer-grit papers.


Shaping and smoothing the knee

To finish shaping the cabriole leg and to remove any blemishes left by the band saw blade, smooth the surface of the knee with a spokeshave, following with a rasp and sandpaper. Holding the spokeshave with both hands at the bottom of a curved edge of the leg, push the tool slowly away from you, cutting a thin shaving (left). Make a series of overlapping passes, working with the grain until the surface is smooth. Turn the leg in the bar clamp to clean up the other edges. Use the rasp to smooth an area that the spokeshave cannot reach. Complete the job with sandpaper.



Designing the knee blocks

The knee blocks, which join the curves of the legs and bottom rails, are designed and cut much like the legs themselves. For a template, place a piece of stiff cardboard in the corner between the leg and adjoin­ing rail and draw a contour line that con­nects the two pieces. The same template can be used for all the knee blocks. Trans­fer the line to a wood blank that is as thick as the leg, slightly wider and larger than the area it must fill. Place the blank against the rail and leg so its outside face is flush with the outer part of the leg and draw a second line on the blank using the leg as a guide (right). The grain of the block should be parallel to that of the leg. Saw out the block on the band saw as you did the legs (page 113).


Mounting the knee blocks

Once all the knee blocks have been cut and smoothed, glue them up one at a time. Apply a thin layer of adhesive to the contacting surfaces, then hold the pieces in place with a clamp. Use wood pads to protect the stock and direct clamping pressure by shaping them to fit flush against the legs (left). Drive a screw through the knee block and into the leg for added reinforcement.

Updated: March 16, 2016 — 1:54 pm