With the tenon work on the aprons completed, it was time to turn my attention to adding the top rail above where the drawer will go. Also, previously the aprons were left square to more easily facilitate cutting the tenons but, now it was time to add the decorative Queen Anne scroll work to them.
I started with the work to add the top rail. I thought about this much like you would a mortise and tenon operation. I needed to cut a socket (much like a mortise) and then fit a dovetail (much like a tenon) to it. Without getting into a pins vs. tails first debate, doing the socket first in this case makes sense. Just as it is easier to size a tenon to an existing mortise, in this case it is easier to mark and fit a dovetail to an existing socket. I marked the top of the two front legs for the dovetail sockets using a square and a bevel gage. Because this joint was not going to be on display, I just set the bevel gage to a reasonable looking angle and marked the sides of the socket. Then I extended these lines vertically down the inside face of the legs a distance equal to the thickness of the top rail.
The first step in cutting the sockets was to saw the side walls. These cuts had to be done at an angle, only partially cutting the socket – just until the point where the saw kerf met the baselines at both the bottom and back of the socket. This avoided any potential unsightly saw kerfs beyond the dovetail socket that might be seen. However, it also required a bit more chiseling to be done to remove the material from the sockets. I started this removal by chiseling a notch at the end of the sockets on the top of the legs as seen in the picture (click for larger view). From there I chiseled out chips from the face of the legs – repeating these two operations until the sockets were clear.
At this point it was necessary to mark the tails on the ends of the top rail piece. To do this I dry fit the table and clamped the top rail in position above the front legs until just a sliver of light was visible between the end of the rail and the sockets below. I then turned the entire assembly over on my bench and marked the tails with a knife. I removed the top rail from the clamps, continued the baselines around the rail with a square and then darkened all of the knife lines with a sharp pencil.
Next, it was time to cut the tails. I started this operation by clamping the rail into my bench vice at an angle so that while sawing my saw would be perpendicular to the bench top. I sawed the tails just leaving my layout lines, shifting the rails position in the vice accordingly as I cut cut each side. Next, I chiseled a notch along the knife line at the shoulders of the dovetails. This notch acted as a guide for my saw while I made the shoulder cuts. After cutting the tails I made a slight chamfer on the under side of the tails starting it just short of the end of the tails and continuing to the shoulders. This chamfer provides clearance for the tails as they are seated into the sockets. After a few dry fits and some trimming of the tails I had a joint that fit. There were a few small gaps but it was secure and I was not attempting to create a joint for show. The excess material you see on the side apron and front rail will be trimmed flush with a plane later once I have completed the glue up of the table carcase.
After completing this joinery, the next step was to complete the scroll work so that the carcase of the table could be glued up. I had previously made templates to replicate half of the symmetrical scrolls for both the side and front aprons. I used these template to trace a line for cutting at the band saw. A line was traced along the template on one side of the apron, the template was flipped about the center line of the apron and then another line was traced to complete the other half of the scroll. This technique assured perfectly symmetrical scrolls. The scrolls were cut at the band saw with a 1/4″ inch blade. For the long scroll on the font apron, I started by drilling a 3/8″ hole at the center in order to assure a perfectly half-round element there. After that, the remainder of the work was at the band saw. Because of the tightness of some of the curves, I had to make some relief cuts at 90 degrees to the cut line to allow small pieces to be cut away thus allowing me to get into tighter areas without any binding of the blade.
Once the scroll cuts were completed I cleaned up the saw marks using both hand tools (rasps, files and sandpaper) and the oscillating spindle sander with a drum sized appropriately for the inside curves. In the picture you can see the table, dry fit with the top rail and the scroll work complete. The next operations will be the glue up of the table carcase and table top and the construction of the drawer runners.
As always, 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 email@example.com.