Making a Cabriole Leg
Last month, Joe Kunzman demonstrated the process for making a cabriole leg. His design for the leg is based on the plans for a Queen Anne Hankerchief Table. The description of the process follows a sequence for the legs of the hankerchief table. The process begins by preparing the leg blanks.
- At the top of each billet observed the grain direction. Mark the front corner of each leg perpendicular to the grain, as shown.
Note: if the front corner is parallel with the grain, then a bullseye pattern will appear on the thigh of the leg which is undesirable.
- Mark the center point of the billet. Measure off 1/8” toward the front corner. Dimple with an awl. Repeat on the opposite side. Mount in the lathe. Note: Since this is an offset turn, run the lathe at a slow setting and set your tool rest out from the rear corner.
- Turn the pad of the foot. The overall height of the pad is 7/8”. The widest diameter is 2-1/4”. The toe of the pad is 5/16” high by 1-7/8” diameter. Sand while on lathe. Caution: avoid touching the unmachined billet. Draw a pencil mark on the top of the turning for step 1.16.
Lathe tools required:
a. 6 mm ¼” parting tool
b. 10 mm 3/8” finger nail gouge
c. 10 mm 3/8” (or larger) skew
- The angle and number of mortises varies by leg. All mortises are ¼” wide. Start with the corner leg. Layout 2 mortises on the back of the post. Offset them by 1-1/8” from the back corner on both sides. Cut to a depth of 3/4”. See plan for layout.
- Continue with the gate leg. It will have a single mortise on the left inside corner, see plan for layout. Offset them by 1-1/8” from the back corner on both sides. Cut to a depth of 3/4”. See plan for layout.
Note: since the rear apron is narrower than the other two, so too will be the length of the mortise.
- Finish with the two side legs. These legs have one straight mortise and one 45-degree angled mortise. The mortise positions on each leg are flipped juxtaposed to one another. See plan for layout. The angled mortise must be cut with the leg held in v-blocks as shown in the picture.
Caution: Cut the mortises to a depth of 3/4”. Any deeper and they will be exposed on the opposite side when the post is rounded off in a subsequent step.
- Using a template, trace the S shape of the leg on two sides of the billet. Position the template so the rear line of post touches the back corner of the billet each time.
Tip: Use a sharp pencil and weights to temporarily hold the template in place while tracing.
- On the table saw cut line at base of post. The blade should be shy of 1”, leaving a fat 1-5/8” for the post. Repeat on the second side. Make sure the kerf of the blade is on the scrap side of the cut.
- Cutout the traced pattern on the bandsaw. Be cautious not to cut into the turned pad or nick the post.
- Clean up any serious bandsaw marks with a block plane and/or spokeshave on any surface that will not be rounded over in the next 3 steps.
Pencil in quarter and half inch lines from each of the four corners. These will be used as guides.
- Shape a chamfer to the quarter inch line using a course rasp on all four corners. Use V-blocks to clamp the piece in the bench vice. Do not shape the uncut side of the leg that extend up the back of the post. In fact, try to stay about an 1/8” away from the top of these, as they will be formed later when the extension blocks are put into place.
- Round over the chamfer to second line with course and fine rasps. Cleanup the rasp marks with a card scraper and sandpaper.
- Clamp each leg vertically and shape top of pad foot with fine rasp. It’s important to get the front 60-degree arc of the pad flat. Work up to the pencil line drawn in at Step 4.
- Sand the leg. Shown is a pneumatic 4”x9” sanding drum mounted on the lathe with a 120 grit sleeve. It has been filled with a small amount of air pressure. The speed is set to 500 RPM (slowest speed for this lathe). Some hand sanding will be required in tight areas. The entire process can also be done by hand.
- Cut out the 2 outside faces of the post on the table saw. The final dimensions of the post are 1-5/8” square. Cut from both sides of each post stopping just short of where the saw blade would touch the upper contour of the leg. A stop block on clamped to the rip fence prevents over cutting. The rip fence will be used on both sides of the blade. Finish the cut on the bandsaw.
- Cleanup the waste and saw marks on the post with a block plane, shoulder plane, and chisel plane.
- Using a bench chisel and a small file to contour the leg into the post. Be very careful to not nick the post and maintain a straight crisp line between the leg and post. Suggest clamping a card scraper to the face of the post to protect it while carving the contour.
- Trim all the posts to final length. Use the rip fence and a spacing block to make them all the same length without having to measure each one.