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.)
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