by Rob Porcaro
Legs with engaging, flowing three-dimensional curves can add immeasurably to the aesthetic success of such pieces as tables, stands and chests. In this article, using the legs for a small floating-top table as an example, I’ll show a practical method for producing such legs, and how to develop your own designs.
You don’t need the talents of Picasso for this work, but neither is it a paint-by-numbers approach of copying a pre-designed curve laid out on a grid. You will use both your mechanical woodworking skills and your artistic intuition. It is systematic, creative and fun.
Your Wood Has to Be Good
Taking the time for thoughtful wood selection is especially important to produce elegant curved legs for furniture. You want blanks that are straight and milled square in cross section. The best appearance of the finished leg comes from a blank with approximately 45° rift grain. In other words, the annular rings in the end grain should be oriented diagonally across the square cross section of the blank. This produces consistent figure on all four long-grain surfaces.
You can try to choose stock wherein the grain mimics the eventual shape of the leg, but this is difficult to achieve consistently for four legs with three-dimensional concave and convex curves. Rather, straight-grained wood nicely exhibits the designed curves to produce a compelling overall look.
Website: Visit Rob Porcaro’s website to see his work and read his blog.
Video:” See how to lay out and cut classic cabriole legs in this free video.
Leg pattern: If you like the legs shown here, download a free PDF of the scale drawing.
In Our Store: “How to Create Your Own Furniture Designs” – video instruction from Aaron Fedarko. To Buy: If classic legs are more your style, check out the video download “Cabriole Legs Simplified,” by Charles Bender for soup-to-nuts instruction.