The holidays are over and finally I’ve been able to get back into my shop. I did make a small Shaker carrier for the street Christmas gift exchange and one to spare (see Becksvoort’s piece in a recent FWW). Oh, and my daughter has been bugging me to make her a pen on the lathe – and you can never make just one. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. The upshot is that between the holidays, preparation for same, and some December business travel it was some time before I could return to this project.
[Cue announcer] Previously on the Mason County Chest of Drawers….I had taken the carcass as far as I could, so it was time to build the apron and legs. I can’t really call it a stand.
One of the features of this project which is thought to be distinctive are the “bandy legs” which are a riff on the cabriole leg. In the exhibition catalog, this was one of the features that tied all the chests of drawers, desks, and sugar chests together. It’s sort of like the illegitimate love child of a cabriole leg and a french foot. Part of the fun is the leg is solid wood that must blend into veneered aprons and be seamless. That means the joinery needs to be pretty close to perfect. Beyond that, the solid wood case and the veneered apron are completely flush, separated by a banding, meaning more precision.
First I made some patterns for the apron pieces. These are taken from tracings of the measured original.
Next I milled the pieces for the aprons and veneered them. I veneered the blanks and then cut the tenons. No pictures were taken – I must have been in the “zone”. After that it was on to making the legs. The mortises were cut first, and then the leg was shaped. I decided to use the drill press to rough out the mortises and then chopped the rest with chisels. There’s not a lot of room for error on these so some precision was needed.
Cutting out the leg shaping. What did pre-industrial craftsmen do before the bandsaw and blue tape?
The center two legs below have been shaped, and the outsides legs below are rough off the bandsaw. The finished leg is somewhat squarish, so I was fairing the curves and rounding it off. I left just a little fat on the top above the knee just in case for blending to the apron pieces.
One more task before glue-up. Along the aprons there’s a piece of veneer all along the edge. For that I used 1/32″ holly veneer. It was very hard to tell how thick it was on the original due to wear and just how much had fallen off. I had to make the tool below to follow the edge; it’s similar to a guitar purfling cutter but with a single blade. It turned out well enough for this job. It’s hard to see in the picture but there’s a blade and a parallel rounded brass bar that followed the curve. A little scraper clean up, and then I glued in the stringing in the mini rebate.
Next I assembled the legs and aprons. The tenons were placed as far out as I dared (they are not centered), and mitered inside where they would have bumped into each other. To reinforce the joint, since the tenons are not very deep, I draw-bored them; the side aprons on the inside where which is hidden once the front/back aprons were added. The front and back are also draw-bored right through the face; the front pin will be hidden behind some marquetry and the back is, well, the back. I have no idea if it was done this way but it’s the best way I could figure to reinforce this joint.
I added glue blocks on the back side (like the original) to reinforce the joint, clamped the assembly onto the carcass, and tuned up the solid wood sides – it was pretty close. It took just a little leveling of the legs above the knees. That was tricky with but just a little time with a shoulder plane, block plane and a scraper. I added the knee blocks (fillers to make the cabriole leg flare up and transition to the apron).
I also made the banding that goes between the carcass and apron but there’s a fussy detail between the marquetry and the banding, so that waits a bit.
Next up: 34 very precise bellflowers on the canted corners. Should be a blast. But until those are done I can’t trim up the drawer blades and the rest of the carcass.
Until next time….