Putting the "log" back in Blog

Bow-Front Hall Table: Working the Curves

Posted on January 27th, by Andy Brownell in Projects. No Comments

bowfront_laminationThis weekend was spent tackling the two most challenging aspects of my latest project – curved, splayed legs and cutting the tenons on a bow-front rail. For anyone familiar with my furniture, I’ve pretty much avoided anything with curves. 2013 is the year of the curves, and this bow-front hall table has plenty of them.

After finishing up the clamping form and cauls a few weeks ago, I laminated two bow-front rails, just in case I made a catastrophic mistake. One rail had 4 laminates, and the other 5. Neither showed any significant spring-back over 1/16″ from the original shape, likely due to the gentle curve of about 3 1/2″ over the rail length of 60″. Once the front rail was cleaned up on the joiner and planed to the final width and length, I made a full-scale drawing to transfer the shoulder and tenon cheeks onto the rail. Then, I used one of the clamping cauls (top right section from photo above), along with my small cross-cut sled to serve as a jig to orient the curved piece back to 90 degrees in order to cut the tenons.cureved_rail_tenon_2

Here’s a photo of how close I came to not being able to pull this off with my table saw. Fortunately, I have exposed floor joists, with no drywall covering the ceiling, giving me the height necessary to cut the tenons in a vertical position.

curved_rail_tenonThe detail shot here shows how accurately this jig held everything in place. I’ve got a bit of trimming to do with a shoulder plane before dry fitting with the legs, but everything looks pretty good considering this is the first time I’ve attempted one of these joints on my own.

With the majority of the bow-front rail out of the way, I moved onto the legs. These are curved/splayed legs that started with 2 1/2″ stock, but required some tricky waste removal to get the splayed look. The top 14″ at 1 5/8″ square remains straight and will accommodate a set of mortised shelf supports, but the lower portion splays out to the opposite corner, tapering to about 1″ at the bottom.

curved_leg_templateFirst, I oriented all of the legs in a way that they would be on the table and marked them. Then, with a pattern I cut and shaped (after several versions), I transferred the cut lines to each leg. Then I mortised the upper rails and two sets of mortises for the shelf rail supports.

With all of the mortises in place, I moved the the table saw to cut the upper straight section of the legs, with a stop block clamped at the end of the table saw fence. I then used the band saw to cut away the curved portion. After each cut, using blue painters tape, I repositioned the waste back onto the leg blank to keep oriented at 90 degrees. Just another use for blue painters tape in the shop.

I cleaned up all of the sides with a variety of hand planes and then with my table top edge sander. Once I’ve test fit everything, I’ll move onto hand sanding and easing the edges.

Here’s what the legs look like standing upside down. Pretty cool.

I’ll wrap up the rails and hopefully dry fit the base by next weekend, then it will start to look like a piece of furniture!





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