I’ve received many phone calls and emails about the sugar chest article in the June 2007 issue of Popular Woodworking. And many questions about the legs, in particular. Everyone wants to know if I have a source for the legs , somewhere where they can just buy them instead of turning each piece. Sorry. I don’t know of any manufacturer that produces the leg I used on the chest. But don’t despair. This is the time to think outside that box.
How about using a different leg for the project? There were many sugar chests built using tapered legs. That’s an obvious answer. No turnings. No lathe required. In fact, this would be a great opportunity to examine at least three methods for tapering legs.
What are the three methods? You can cut the tapers at the band saw to remove a majority of the waste, then finish with a hand plane (if you know me you know this is not my chosen method). Second, use a tapering jig at the table saw (I find this method very difficult to set up , and who wants their hands that close to the blade anyway?). The best method , in my opinion , is to use the jointer.
No, I’m not talking about repeated cuts over the blades trying to guess your best at the slope; counting the passes can put you to sleep and it’s easy to lose track, which results in mismatched legs. I’m referring to the two-step method for cutting tapered legs at the jointer that leaves perfectly matched legs (as long as you hit the layout lines). Never seen this method or need a refresher on how it works? In the next few days, we’ll have a video linked from our homepage that shows this method “step by step.”
Or, use this as an excuse to buy the lathe you always wanted. I’ve work on mini-lathes with great success. There are models that run from a low $180 to around $325. Even if you later add a bed extension, you’ll still be at a reasonable cost. Of course, if you can parlay this need to turn legs into a Oneway lathe, more power to you.
And last, how about looking at available table legs and adapting something to use for the legs of the sugar chest? I went to tablelegs.com and looked at the William & Mary-style legs, particularly the dining leg (505-D). If you would cut the leg exactly at the center of the upper turned area, and a second time at the bottom of the lower leg block, you would have two matching legs that worked for the sugar chest (see photo at right). Two legs delivered to your shop and cut at the correct location will net four usable legs for your chest. Total cost would be less than $10 per leg plus shipping.
Many woodworkers want to work with exact plans, full-size drawings or even buy the parts to assemble the project , even the most notable PBS television woodworker bought the legs for his highboy. The better idea is to understand the building process, to look for alternative ways around roadblocks, and to push yourself to increase your woodworking abilities as you progress through a project.
That’s my take. If you have an opinion, add your comment for others to discuss.