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Talk is cheap. We always talk about how important it is to practice, but do we practice what we preach? Yes we do. Practice improves your woodworking abilities and provides a chance to see what the end product or component will look like as it takes shape.

In the photo you can see a couple different versions of a cabriole leg I’m developing for a dressing table (or lowboy) for the June issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. I collected photos from the Internet of an antique piece, then developed a leg pattern that was close in design.

A few pieces of scrap pine were assembled into a leg blank to be shaped the next day. After working up a leg based on the first pattern, I determined that the ankle was too narrow, especially if I planned to carve it. Back at the computer, I adjusted the SketchUp model, printed another pattern, then set out to try again.

I grabbed a chunk of 3″ x 3″ cedar from the home store (a quick alternative to a pine glue-up) and milled a piece to size. The new design with a thicker ankle was a better match to what I had perceived the leg to be based on the photos. Next, I needed to develop a detailed pattern for the trifid foot. It took a couple foot designs before I was satisfied with the shape.

When it came to carving, I felt compelled to use mahogany. Why carve pine only to encounter non-pine issues as you work with the project’s wood of choice? I used a short offcut to make the foot portion of a leg; that’s all I needed. I did change a few things and adjust a couple of my ideas, but I didn’t complete the carving. Overall, the work went as I planned.

As you can see, the right-most leg is nearly 95 percent complete. I’m happy with it. The three blanks beneath the practice legs are yet to be shaped. Guess what I’m doing for the rest of the day.

(Thanks to Chuck Bender of Acanthus Workshops for providing detailed photos of the dressing table, and to H. L. Chalfant Antiques for granting access to the original for those photos.)

– Glen D. Huey

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Showing 5 comments
  • Glen


    I used a #8, 7mm bent gouge to carve the flutes or to create the stockings of the trifid foot, and a #9, 10mm gouge to shape the foot.

  • Paul Kelley


    What two carving tools do you use to carve the foot of the cabriole leg you mentioned in in your video?

  • Glen


    The table saw cut serves two purposes: it defines the intersection of the knee and post block, and it acts as a relief cut. As you cut the leg at the band saw, you have to cut the knee in toward the block; it’s a tight radius. With that relief cut, there is no need to back out of the cut. Those relief cuts are sawn from the blank’s front face to the front of the post block. There is no particular order in which those cuts need to be made.

    Also there is no specific order required to carve out the leg, as long as all the lines are cut. Generally I’ve found that on most legs there are three pieces created at the band saw (the top of the knee to the block, the leg front and the leg back), but on this particular leg, the front and knee area came off as one.

  • ken Turnbull

    I watched the video of you cutting out the leg and have a couple of questions…
    What face(s) were you cutting on the tablesaw and is there an order to your cuts; and
    Is there an order to your cuts on the bandsaw or does it matter.? I have seen articles where they say start here and turn clockwise or counterclockwise.

    I understand the concept and could get some scrap and experiment, but I thought it would be faster to ask.

    Ken T

  • Keith

    There’s an old saying, "The more you practice, the luckier you get."

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