Mark (TheCraftsmansPath.com) on January 4th, 2008

I’ve been progressing on the legs for the Queen Anne Side Table. In my last post, I had shaped the feet and reworked the heel transitions on the legs. This left the tasks of adding and shaping the knee blocks, cutting the mortises and trimming the posts to final size to be done.

 Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsThe first task was to mark and cut the mortises. I had left the tops of the legs sized to the full square dimension in order to make marking and cutting these mortises easier. Of course, doing this before the knee blocks were added also helped out with the ability to clamp the legs and to machine the mortises. There are four mortises on each of the rear legs and three on each of the front legs. These mortises will accept the tenons from the table aprons. The front legs will also receive a dovetailed recess to house the top rail above the drawer but, I have chosen to leave that operation until after I have the rail milled to size and the aprons completed.

 Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsNormally I would cut these mortises with my router mortising jig (see this post for info). However, when I tried to use that jig with these legs, I discovered that my router was extended too far away from the edge guide and it became unstable in that orientation. I contemplated using the drill press to rough out the mortises assuming that I would follow up with a chisel. However, after a practice run using that method I was not satisfied and returned to the router for another alternative. I opted to clamp each leg in my bench vice and to route the mortises using the edge guide alone.  Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsThe only down  Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsside to this method was that I lost the assistance of the stops on the jig so, I needed to be careful to stop routing accurately at the ends of each mortise. The fact that I had left the tops of the legs at the full dimension made this process much easier. Once I got going, the routing all of the mortises went very quickly. While I have done mortises many times using more traditional methods, I really like doing mortises with the router. Once the process is nailed down it is very quick and accurate and the mortise walls are very smooth assuring a good glue joint. An added benefit is that with a shop vacuum connected to my router there is very little clean up to do!

After the mortises were completed, I needed to finally cut down the upper posts on the legs to their final dimension so that the knee blocks could subsequently be added and shaped. With the extra material at the tops of the legs, there was no room for that shaping to be done.  Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsThis was a simple operation at the band saw with one significant detail to be addressed. Because of the shape of the legs, the two faces of the posts needed to be cut in a specific order. In the pictures you can see that the leg was first oriented with the knee down toward the band saw table while making the first cut. After that cut was complete, the leg was rotated counter-clockwise 90 degrees to complete the second cut.  Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsThis allowed for flat faces of the leg to be placed against both the fence and the table during both cuts. These two cut faces make up the outsides of the posts and will be smoothed once the aprons are cut and fit.

With the machining completed on the tops of the legs, it was time to cut, glue and shape the knee blocks. Knee blocks are typically attached separately at this stage because there is no good way to cut the entire leg (with the knee blocks) out of a solid piece of stock – even if they were cut from a solid block, a lot of stock would be wasted in the process. I started this process by examining the offcuts from the leg blanks that I had saved for suitable pieces to use. There are six knee blocks to be made in total (two for each front leg and one for each rear leg) . While examining the stock for these pieces, I tried hard to match the grain on the legs with the grain on the knee blocks. Of course, this was hard to do exactly, but attention to this detail will result in a better looking piece in the end.

 Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsWith the stock for the knee blocks chosen and cut to rough size, I traced the pattern onto each piece using the template that I had made earlier. I chose to cut this pattern out first and to then scribe the leg profile onto the knee blocks. Because of the shape of the knee blocks I ended up having to create a template on a piece of paper to trace onto the profiled faces of the blocks – this was necessary because I needed to keep the flat side against the band saw table while cutting the leg profile. In retrospect, I should have made these cuts in the opposite order but, with a little thinking there was an alternative way to get the job done.

 Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsIn the pictures, you can see the process of gluing, clamping and rough shaping the knee blocks. It turned out that clamping these pieces to the legs was a bit cumbersome – even trying to use the offcuts as clamping blocks did not work well. The resulting glue joints are not my best, but they are certainly adequate.

 Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and postsShaping these curves followed the same process as the rest of the legs. Lots of rasping, filing, chiseling and a little sanding. In the picture you can see the shaping completed with the legs sanded to 150 grit. After the aprons are made there will be a bit more refining and sanding to be done, as well as cutting the dovetailed recess in posts for the top front rail but, for now the legs are complete.

I have started to the process of milling the stock for the aprons, the drawer front and the table top. The joinery on those pieces will be the next task at hand. Until then, if you have any comments or questions, please leave them here using the comments link at the end of the post, or email me at thecraftsmanspath@gmail.com.

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6 Responses to “Queen Anne Side Table: Leg mortises, knee blocks and posts”

  1. I was just wondering if you could tell me where I could buy a full size template for the queen anne legs Thanks

  2. Henry,

    Thanks for visiting the web site. Because every Cabriole leg is somewhat different, I’m not sure that there is a standard template to be had. Depending on the application (i.e. side table, high boy, low boy, chair, etc) parameters like the height of the leg, thrust of the knee, size of the foot etc. will be different. These kinds of parameters will change based on the dimensions of the furniture piece. So, there is no set template. Generally these things are developed so that they are pleasing to the eye for a given piece.

    Having said that, you could certainly develop one fairly easily based on the furniture piece that you want to build. Typically, the leg blank is no more than 2 3/4″ square and the post at the top is usually between 1 1/4″ and 1 3/4″. Another rule of thumb is that thereis usually not more than about 1″ or 1 1/8″ offset between the apex of the knee and the post. Also, the ankle is usually about 1″ in diameter. With those details, drawing some curves and connecting the curves with straight lines you can develop a good template.

    One article that I know of with a couple of Cabriole leg templates is by Lonnie Bird in Fine Woodworking (#144 September/October 2000).

    I hope this helps and please continue to visit the web site.

    –Mark

  3. Hi Mark:

    Moving real well.

    The knee block….. kinda cool how they work with the apron in so many different ways.

    I remember seeing a photo on the first cabriole leg post: is that photo your sole base for interpretation or are you working your table from many different plans and photo’s???

    Going back and forth to the photo’s makes this “craftsman’s path” a good read.

  4. Neil,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Yes, it’s interesting how the knee blocks interact with the scroll work on the aprons. The curves in the blocks flowing into the aprons seems to visually connect the legs to the rest of the table.

    The original photo is an example of the table, but it has Trifed feet rather than a turned foot. I have used that picture as a basic reference, but I’ve also referenced other pictures of cabriole legs. The Huey design of this table in Popular Woodworking had a turned foot.

    I did a bunch of work creating tenons for the aprons recently. There’s a bit more fitting to do before a dry fit of those. I’ll be posting on that activity shortly.

    –Mark

  5. Mark,
    I am amazed looking at these posts and the pix that you have never done cabirole legs before. I realize there has to be a first time for everything, but this is impressive. Can you recommend any sources for information (besides this excellent blog) on the process, design, shaping, etc?

    Shannon

  6. Shannon,

    Thanks for the compliments. The process is relatively straightforward, though the shaping is a new twist that may not be a skill that everyone has tried.

    As far as other resources, there have been several good articles written in Fine Woodworking over the years. If you go to http://www.finewoodworking.com and search on “cabriole” you will see them (the ones by Lonnie Bird, Phil Lowe, and Eugene Landon come to mind although they use a slightly different process than I did). The one issue here is that some/all of these may require a membership to Finewoodworking.com to be accessed (well worth the $15/year).

    If you have other questions, please ask and I will do my best to answer based on my experiences. Glad you are enjoying the blog.

    –Mark

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