Chris Schwarz's Blog

Creole Table: Safe, Sound and Not a Bit Sorry

One of the big challenges in building a project for publication is to come up with techniques that use common tools and skills to produce results that others can replicate using the same tools and techniques. It’s a bit like being a scientist, but without the sexy lab coats, pocket protectors and slide rules.

These cabriole legs are a prime example of this challenge. The legs themselves are easier than most cabriole legs because we’ve done the grunt work of finding the fair curve and developing patterns for you, plus they don’t require a lot of freeform shaping to get them looking good. These particular legs do have one quirk, however.

The tops of many cabriole leg are square in section, obviously. With many cabriole legs the curvy part sticks out from the line of the apron with the traditional “knee” shape we’re all familiar with. These legs are different. They curve in, which gives the table a delicate, perching look. This means that the mortises on the legs are going to be on an inside surface of the leg blank. That’s a bit tricky because you want your joinery surfaces as clean and straight and true as possible.

My first inclination was to cut the entire leg shape with a band saw and then true the joinery surfaces with a plane. So I cut a couple test legs using sappy walnut to try this procedure out. I wasn’t happy with the results. I could get an acceptable joinery surface, but it took more hand skills than I liked, and it was too easy to get the entire leg out of square at the top, which could be frustrating at assembly time.

The other option was to cut the square sections of the legs using a table saw and a series of stopped cuts and then finish up the cuts with a hand saw or band saw. Generally, I hate stopped cuts on the table saw because they can feel a bit unsafe to some people. (And I really hate plunge cutting on the table saw and won’t do it myself.)

So I tried the stop cuts on a test piece. The procedure allowed me to leave the splitter in place and use our basket guard (which is removed for the photo , honest). Plus, instead of removing the piece with the sawblade running I simple turned the saw off after each stopped cut. After the blade ran down, I removed the piece from the cut. The results looked good and the procedure felt safe.

I still needed to finish up the cut , the curvature of the saw’s blade prohibited me from cutting the waste free. I could use the band saw to do this, or I could take a break from the machines and get out a handsaw. Handsaw it is.

Christopher Schwarz