After roughing out the legs on the band saw, the next step in the process was to turn and shaping the feet and to smooth the faces of the legs so that they could be marked out for shaping. This past weekend I worked on these steps.
The feet were turned on a my lathe after marking the rough legs for center on each end. Because the template that was used as a pattern for the legs was as wide as finished legs (i.e. not offset within the blanks) the centers were marked directly on the ends of each leg. The legs were mounted on the lathe with the foot toward the tail stock so that there was no chance in hitting the drive center when turning the feet. The tool rest was positioned so that the foot could be turned without the leg contacting it while it was spinning. Because of the offset shape of the legs, there was some whip as the legs turned so, I turned them at the lowest speed on my lathe, which is about 500 RPM.
The first step in turning the foot was to turn a cylinder down to the desired outside diameter. I marked a line at the top if the toe and then turned in slightly at that point with the long point of my skew chisel to define the top edge of the toe. Next, I started to rough in with a spindle gouge for the outer diameter of the foot. After turning in a little bit with the gouge, I needed to relieve a bit of the back of the ankle portion of the leg with a chisel so that the gouge would be able to reach where I needed it i order to to finish turning the foot. Now it was a simple matter of turning to the desired outer diameter of 2 3/4″.
Once the outer diameter was turned, a smaller diameter needed to be turned for the pad of the foot. I marked out for the pad with a pencil at about 1/8″ up from the bottom of the foot. When looking at foot at this point it seemed like height of the foot from the pad up to the toe was too large so, I also marked a line where I thought the toe should stop. I then proceeded to turn the pad of the foot to 1 3/4″ in diameter with a parting tool.
With the foot diameters now roughed in, it now needed to be turned from the toe down to the pad. I did this with a spindle gouge, gradually shaping the curve until I liked the shape. I also sanded the foot to 220 grit while on the lathe. At this point I created a small template of this turned foot by tracing its outline onto some paper and cutting it out. This template was used to match the other three feet to this first one. You can see in the picture that I also used the point of the skew chisel to define the new top of the toe. I removed this leg and then turned all three of the other legs to this point following the same procedure. Once the turning was competed, I paused to contemplate the next steps in the process.
After thinking about what was next in the process, I realized that to shape the foot down to the new toe line that I had defined, there would be a significant amount of material that would need to be removed. This would need to be done while trying to maintain the graceful curve from the ankle to the top of the foot, which I thought would be difficult to do consistently on all four legs. I thought this through and finally decided to trust my original template and to keep the foot dimensions as originally designed. This required me to re-mount each leg on the lathe and to remove the skewed line that I added and to also re-fair the curve from the toe to the pad. In the pictures you can see the finished turned feet.
Now that the feet were turned, some rough shaping was necessary to transition the ankles to the them and to remove some excess material from their sides. I started this by shaping the tops of the feet using the oscillating spindle sander. The large drum on this tool made quick work of this allowing me to rough a gentle curve from the ankle to the foot while keeping a nice crisp line at the top of the toe. There was still some excess material to remove around the sides of the feet so, now it was time to do some hand work.
In order to work on the legs by hand I needed a secure way to hold them. In the picture, you can see my solution using some clamps at the bench. I decided to try a Microplane to rasp around the sides of the feet close to the skewed edge of the toe. So far this tool seems to work well. It leaves a very nice surface – even with the rough blade I’m using at this point – and it creates small shavings rather than dust, which is nice. I’m hopeful that it will work just as well with the fine blades when I shape the remaining portions of the legs.
After the rough rasping, I needed to smooth the surfaces of the legs so that they could be marked for final shaping. I did this with a block plane and a card scraper, smoothing from the knees down to about the top of the ankles. Once smooth, using a pencil with my middle finger as a gauge I drew a line from the center of the ankle along the front edge of the leg and then again along the back edge of the leg. With those two lines drawn, I repeated the process drawing another line about 5/7th of the way from the edges of the leg to the first set of lines. These lines will serve to guide me during the next process of shaping the curves of the legs by hand.
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