Classic Six-Legged Huntboard

With the rails cut to size, the first step is to define the shoulders of the tenon. With your rip fence set to cut 1-1/4" (don't forget the blade's thickness), cut 1/4" deep on the two wide faces for the rails, and on one edge of the rail. On the final edge, reset the fence to cut 1" and make the cut. This is the haunched part of the joint and will be the outside edge of the door.

With the rails cut to size, the first step is to define the shoulders of the tenon. With your rip fence set to cut 1-1/4" (don't forget the blade's thickness), cut 1/4" deep on the two wide faces for the rails, and on one edge of the rail. On the final edge, reset the fence to cut 1" and make the cut. This is the haunched part of the joint and will be the outside edge of the door.

My dad has been making this six-legged huntboard for a number of years now, and it’s always sold well at the furniture shows we attend. One year he built one for a woman who requested glass knobs on the piece. As most business people know, the customer is always right. Though we weren’t sure the glass knobs were right for this piece, we took that huntboard with us to a show to solicit sales anyway. Our first sale that day was for the huntboard. But there was one request: “Could you put some different handles on it?” I’m happy to present here a classic six-legged huntboard with the handles we usually put on the piece.

Quick Tapers for the Legs
The joinery on the huntboard is predominantly mortise and tenon, with all the rails and panels attached to the legs with tenons. The inner partitions are dadoed into the solid back and tenoned into the center legs. Start construction by cutting the legs to size according to the Schedule of Materials. 

Each leg is tapered to 1″ at the floor, starting 16″ down from the top of the leg. The four corner legs are tapered on the two inside edges, but just to make it so you can’t use one tapering jig setup (and because it’s historically correct) the two middle legs are tapered on the back and both sides. I use a simple tapering jig on my table saw for the four corner legs. Rather than make a new jig for the middle legs, I mark their tapers, cut them 1/16″ proud on the band saw, then run them over the jointer to clean up the cut.

 The next step is to use a tenoning jig (you can see mine has seen a little bit of use) to cut the cheeks of the tenons.

The next step is to use a tenoning jig (you can see mine has seen a little bit of use) to cut the cheeks of the tenons.

Many, Many Mortises
With the legs tapered, take a couple of minutes to glue up panels for the back, ends and partitions. Set them aside to dry. Next, mark each leg for mortises. Where the panels meet the legs there are three 1/4″ x 3″ x 1-1/4″-long mortises, evenly spaced along the top 15-1/2″ of the leg and set so the ends will be flush to the outside face of the outer legs and the partitions flush to the inside edge of the two interior legs. Where the dividers and rails meet the legs, use 1/4″ x 1/2″ x 1″-long mortises, again orienting the mortises to keep the rails and legs flush to the outside.

With all the mortises cut, unclamp your panels and trim them to final size. Then mark the tenon locations to match your mortises, and go ahead and form the tenons. If you use your table saw for this step, you’ll notice that the back is a little difficult to mount in your tenoning jig without taking out a section of your ceiling. I’d recommend setting your rip fence for the 1-1/4″ length of the tenon (don’t forget to include the thickness of your blade), set the blade height to 1/4″ and run the back flat against the table using the miter gauge (or a sled) to support the panel’s back edge. Nibble away the rest of the tenon length with repeated saw passes. The rest can be cut with a hand saw.

The third step is to reset the fence to define the width of the tenon. First cut the full-depth side of the tenon, then reset the blade height and cut the haunched side of the tenon (shown).

The third step is to reset the fence to define the width of the tenon. First cut the full-depth side of the tenon, then reset the blade height and cut the haunched side of the tenon (shown).

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of solid wood — even on my backs, partitions and bottoms. Along with that appreciation of solid wood comes an appreciation of what solid wood can do when it moves with the seasons. Because of this, trim the width of your tenons on the panels as much as 1/8″ per tenon. This should allow room for wood movement. In addition, when you get to the assembly stage, it’s prudent to glue primarily the center of the panel, which will allow the ends to expand.

While you’re milling the back, set your saw to cut two 1/4″ x 3/4″-wide dadoes in the back to accept the ends of the partitions. Other necessary pre-assembly joinery includes mortises in the back of the drawer dividers for the drawer runners. Mark and cut the two 1/4″ x 1″ x 3/8″-deep mortises in each drawer divider.

How Many Clamps Do You Have?
You’re now ready to assemble the case. You’re going to need at least four clamps; more if you want a quick assembly. Start by attaching the three drawer dividers between the two center legs. Next attach the partitions between the drawer face assembly and the back piece. Clamp this up and set it aside to dry. If you own enough clamps to continue, glue up the two end panels between the front and rear corner legs. The final step is to glue the end assemblies to the back piece, and to attach the door area rails to the mortises in the legs, and the door area stiles. Screw the stiles in place to the back of the middle legs. Pre-drill a clearance hole and pilot drill the leg to avoid splitting.

 The last step is to run the groove for the door panel. This same groove process works for the panels in the door section bottoms. When running a centered groove like this, I first make a cut approximately in the center of the piece. Then I adjust the fence and, with a scrap piece, test my cut. By running first one face against the fence, then flipping it and running the other, I am guaranteed the 1/4" x 1/4 groove is centered on the door piece.  When the stiles and rails are assembled, the haunch left on the tenon hides the groove on the stiles, making it unnecessary to make stopped grooves.

The last step is to run the groove for the door panel. This same groove process works for the panels in the door section bottoms. When running a centered groove like this, I first make a cut approximately in the center of the piece. Then I adjust the fence and, with a scrap piece, test my cut. By running first one face against the fence, then flipping it and running the other, I am guaranteed the 1/4" x 1/4 groove is centered on the door piece. When the stiles and rails are assembled, the haunch left on the tenon hides the groove on the stiles, making it unnecessary to make stopped grooves.

Doors and Drawers
With the case assembled, turn to making up some frame-and-panel pieces — the doors and the bottoms of the door sections. I used a half-lapped frame and panel assembly for the bottoms in the door sections. The panel is rabbeted and rests in a 3/8″ x 3/8″ groove in the rails and stiles. By using a frame-and-panel bottom, I again help alleviate any problems caused by wood movement, while still using solid wood throughout the piece. 

The doors are frame-and-panel as well, but are assembled with haunched mortise-and-tenon joinery, again with a rabbeted panel, with the recessed face showing to the outside of the cabinet. For both the bottoms and the doors, glue only the rail and stile joints, allowing the panels to float in the grooves.

While the doors and bottom panels dry, move back to the case and remove the clamps. To add strength and to enhance the appearance of the piece, I peg each of the mortise-and-tenon joints with squared oak pegs. Sharpening one end of the peg in a pencil sharpener allows me to start the peg in a round hole and end up with a visible square peg. After the joints are pegged, cut them flush and give the entire case exterior a thorough sanding.

When the doors are dry, use the same pegging technique, then sand the doors and bottom panels.

Next make the two drawers. They are constructed using half-blind dovetails on the front and through-dovetails at the back. The bottoms are solid panels raised on the table saw to fit into 1/4″-wide x 1/4″-deep grooves in the drawer sides, fronts and backs. The groove is cut 1/2″ up from the bottom of each piece. If you do this on your table saw, make sure the groove is aligned properly with the dovetails to hide the groove at the joints.

My tapering jig is simply a couple of pieces of 3/4" pine screwed to a 1/2" piece of Baltic birch. It is built to cut one particular taper, in this case the taper for a huntboard leg, and is inexpensive enough to be one of many tapering jigs I use. Unlike some tapering jigs, the leg is carried on the 1/2" piece, suppoting the leg from the bottom and side.

My tapering jig is simply a couple of pieces of 3/4" pine screwed to a 1/2" piece of Baltic birch. It is built to cut one particular taper, in this case the taper for a huntboard leg, and is inexpensive enough to be one of many tapering jigs I use. Unlike some tapering jigs, the leg is carried on the 1/2" piece, suppoting the leg from the bottom and side.

The drawers ride on runners attached to the inside surface of the center partitions. Each runner has a tenon on one end that fits into the mortises cut earlier in the back of the middle and lower drawer divider. I taper the back end of each runner to make it easier to nail the back end in place to the partition, once the proper alignment is achieved.

Across the Finish Line
The last piece is the top itself. Glue up the pieces necessary, leaving them slightly oversized until dry, then cut the top to finished size. To attach the top to the case, I use “L”-shaped fasteners that I make myself. One end of the fastener is screwed to the underside of the top, and the other fits into slots cut on the inner surface of the case with a router and spline cutter. Don’t push the tongue of the fastener all the way into the groove to allow for wood movement in the top from front to back. The front edge of the top is attached by screws run up through the top rails in the door and drawer sections.

Before finishing, attach the hardware for the doors, mortising the doors to accommodate the hinges. Test the doors and trim to fit if necessary.

The finish itself is one I use on all my pieces. I start with a water-based aniline dye. I used Moser’s Early American Cherry (Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292, item #W14304, $11.70 ) on the piece shown here. Once the dye is dry, lightly sand the entire piece to remove any raised grain, then spray the piece with sanding sealer and five coats of lacquer.

The hardware that I like for this piece is simple brass (unless someone wants glass.) I used two H-97L 11/4″ knobs for the doors and four K-12 1-1/4″ knobs for the drawers. All are available from Horton Brass (800-754-9127). Of course, if you prefer a nice glass knob, there’s nothing wrong with that. The customer is always right. PW

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Glen Huey is contributing editor for Popular Woodworking.

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