BY

JOHN A. FRY

CUSTOM CRAFTED FURNITURE

 

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This commissioned sofa table’s concept was borrowed from a late seventeenth century, round, gate-leg table. The client wanted it in a dark walnut with “antique shading”, and asked that the back of the table be as detailed as the front so it could be used away from the sofa if desired.

 

This elevated shot shows the grain and antique shading of the table's top

I used a Legacy Ornamental Mill to sculpt the barley twisted legs. I set the Legacy up and cut the mortises for the aprons in the 2” X 2” walnut stock as the very first milling procedure. Then I milled the stock round from the apron block down.

Next, I cut the top and bottom terminuses for the twists.

Here is one leg on the mill and I’m routing the barley twists.

All the twists are done, and here you can see the right and left twists of the four legs and the two backup legs. The two legs on the left side of the table spiral up and inward towards the center, and the two legs on the right are an opposing twist. This design gives the table balance and guides the eye upward and to the center of the piece. I see pieces where commercially purchased moldings and legs all spiral in one direction and to me, the balance is lost.

The final step on the Legacy is to mill 5/8” round tenons/dowels on the top and bottom of the spiral section of the leg, and part off the upper apron blocks. I decided on this construction technique because the bottom has to go through a flat stretcher and into a turned foot, and by separating the spiral from the upper apron block, this allows me to turn and position the twisted part of the leg at glue up time for the best appearance, and be certain of the alignment of all the spirals.

I turned the feet on the lathe two at a time.

Using chucks on the lathe, and a 5/8” forstner bit, I drilled the round mortises in the apron blocks and the feet.

The curved aprons called for bent laminations. From a full size drawing on ¼” MDF, I measured the inside radius of the curve and built a form to use in the vac press. I sliced the laminates at 1/8” thick and then drum sanded to 3/32”. For grain matching I used one piece of 6/4 walnut to go across the front of the table. Eight laminates gave me my approximately ¾” curved apron.

Another shot from the end.

I used a narrow block of wood on the waste section of the laminates and screwed through the block, the laminates, and into the form to keep it all from shifting while the vacuum pulled the laminates down against the form.

After the aprons got one of their edges sanded and jointed, I ripped the parallel edge very carefully on the table saw. I built a 90 degree fixture to use as a trimming sled so I could be certain the ends of the curved aprons would be cut at a perfect 90 degrees. I used this same fixture to hold the ends while I routed the mortises to joint the apron to the legs with loose tenons.

The front and back apron profiles would be easy to cut on the flat aprons using the band saw, but because I would have to cut the curved aprons by hand, I cut them all that way for the practice. So I removed the big waste with the band saw, but carefully cut the ogee profile with a coping saw and then shaped and smoothed with a #49 cabinet makers rasp and files.

Here is where I start cutting up my ¼” full size drawing to make templates. This shot shows the table top just after band sawing, and routing to finished size. You can see the carcass dry fit at the other end of the bench.

After the top is shaped, I cut the drawing up some more to get the bottom “flat” stretcher template. Once again, using the template, I draw it on the glue up, band saw close to the line, and then trim with the router.

This design called for a groove and bead-like edge treatment on the lower profile of the aprons. The straight aprons were no problem. I made a template and used a 1/8” round-over bit with a guide bushing and routed away. Bingo!

The curved aprons created different challenges. I made a new bent lamination out of some scrap veneers I had lying around and hand cut the profile needed to make this “curved” template. Using a trim router instead of a big router (thanks WalnutGuy) I cut the tricky profile detail keeping the router as square as possible to the curved face. It wasn’t perfect, but a little hand work with a few sharp carving chisels and I was done.

The finishing goal was to be a dark walnut with antique shading on edges and in the nooks and crannies. I tried many methods of staining, dying, shading, and toning on samples. The expert finishers will probably scoff at the unorthodox method I used, but it was what worked best for me.

I used a gel stain by General Finishes called Java, and I stained the shaded areas first rather than as a glaze after the main stain.
 

Then I sanded back to the amount of shading I wanted. I could feather the darker color easily without worrying about cutting into the main stain.

Then I stained the whole piece to get the dark walnut tone and the shading showed through perfectly. I was very satisfied with the effect. Five or six coats of an oil/varnish blend and I’ll be done.

The top is attached to the carcass with cabinetmaker’s buttons except for the front-center, which was attached solidly with screws. This will keep the top’s overhang consistent in the front of the table and around the curves, but still allow the top to expand/contract towards the back.

This close up shows the apron detail and the upper leg joint.

 

This one shows the leg, to stretcher, to foot.

 

 

Chisel And Bit Custom Crafted Furniture

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