Old styles of furniture can still speak to us loud and clear today. The Queen Anne style,
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On a historical note, this footstool is not a copy of an authentic antique. Footstools were
not common in the 18th century. I’ve made many copies of genuine Queen Anne chairs,
however, so I scaled down some of my favorite cabriole legs and rails and incorporated
their best features into this footstool. Making the legs is the hardest part of this project, so I’ve gone into detail on how to do it in “Cabriole Leg,” below.
Tools and materials
One appeal of this style is that you get to use both machines and hand tools. You’ll need
a bandsaw to make the legs in addition to the basic machines for working solid wood: a
tablesaw, jointer and planer. I use a tablesaw tenoning jig and a mortising machine to make
the joints, but there are many other ways you can do it. You’ll also need a router to make
rabbets and the molding that runs around the top of the stool. As for hand tools, I turn to
a small number of favorites (see “Cabriole Leg,” below).
Chamfer the inside edge of the rails. This makes them
Click any image to view a larger version.
Shape the leg with hand tools. For complete how-to
Glue up the whole stool in one
Fit a corner block around each leg. Plane or sand the
for making an elegant leg.
By Alf Sharp
Cabriole legs revolutionized furniture in the early
The secret to making cabriole legs
is actually quite simple: One pattern is
used twice on adjacent sides of a square
leg blank. I’ve got a great technique for
sawing that avoids all the hassle of reattaching
the waste pieces in order to
cut the second side. The hard part of
making a truly graceful leg is finding a
good pattern. I’ve made one for a footstool that’s the result of looking
at many good, bad and indifferent legs.
The curves of this leg have just the
right amount of spring.
The first time I tried making a cabriole
leg the results weren’t so great. You’ll
probably have a similar experience. So
glue up some thinner
wood and make
practice legs before you
cut into the thick, expensive wood
that a good cabriole leg should be
made from. Use a hardwood like
cherry, walnut or mahogany for a
practice leg to get the feel of how
your hand tools should work.
Power tools and hand tools
Power tools and hand tools
You’ll need two power tools for making this cabriole leg:
a lathe and a bandsaw. Many cabriole legs don’t have
turned feet, but using a lathe speeds the process. Install a
1/4", 4 to 6 teeth-per-inch (tpi) blade in your bandsaw.
This relatively coarse blade may leave a slightly rough
surface, but that’s fine because you’ll continue to shape the
entire leg with hand tools.
You won’t need many hand tools, but each one has to be
very sharp. I use a 1" or wider butt chisel, a mallet, a flatfaced
spokeshave, a medium-coarse and a fine half-round
rasp, a half-round file and a cabinet scraper. Rasps and
files can be expensive, but I’ve found that an inexpensive
carpenter’s 4-in-1 rasp can substitute for all of them.
Begin shaping the leg with hand tools. Remove large
Use a medium rasp to slightly round the arrises at the
Round and smooth the leg with a spokeshave (see the
Remove the rasp marks with a scraper. This works
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 2000, issue #80.
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