Monthly Archives: August 2013

Circle-cut Moldings

High_Res ScrollI’ve returned to the Egerton tall clock this week to begin work on the hood moldings. Due to the dial design selected, this clock has a circular molding that is cut at an angle to fit to straight runs before it turns back the sides of the hood. I’m beginning with the arched section because it’s easier to produce a match when working on the straight runs, than it is to work up a perfect match on the arched section after the straight stock is made.

For this operation, I find it best to use my router along with a circle-cutting jig. You find the radius of the cut, which changes with each router bit used as you make the profile, then swing the setup as you make your cuts. IMG_1128For this clock, because there is a small added inlaid piece up the center of the hood, the arched molding is divided. That allows me to set up the stock as a pair of pieces instead a single piece with the entire arch cut. This translates into stronger moldings because there is no short grain where the piece can easily break.

In the photo above, you can see the setup. I have my router attached to a shop-made circle-cutting jig and yes, that is a drill bit I’m using as a pivot – no right-sized dowel in the shop. (Make do with what you have.) In the photo I’ve made the first pass, creating the thumbnail profile along the top edge of the molding. The workpieces are held with double-stick tape, as is the pivot platform.

The trick to this work is to properly set your router and the length of the jig to cut exactly where you need to produce the profile.IMG_1129 To do just that you need to accurately measure for the hole location (pivot point) on your jig. As you can see in the left-hand photo, you don’t need to be centered of your jig. As long as the measurement from the pivot to the correct edge of your router bit is right, your cut will be in the correct location. There are times when you’ll set to the far side of the bit and times when you use the near side to cut your profile.  Once determined, I use a bird cage awl to start my hole so the drill bit stays put as I drill. It takes some time to get the position just right, but it can be done.

IMG_1131The results are great if you use the correct router bits and get the setups just right. In the right-hand photo you can see the results of three passes using the setup. The first was the thumbnail. For the second cut I used a round-nose bit. The third cut was with a straight bit and it was simply to clear the material for the subsequent passes.

It was after the third pass that I realized I had used the wrong round-nose router bit. The width of the round-bottom trench was too wide for the profile as I had it drawn. You know what that means, right. Yep, start over. I’ll choose the right bits this time, and I think I’ll re-design the molding somewhat; I wasn’t thrilled with how it was coming out. Also, because it is time-consuming to accurately position the jig, I’ll switch to my Micro Fence circle-cutting jig which allows me way more accuracy as I work.

That’s my Sunday (another day in the shop, yeah). What are you planning?

Build Something Great!

Leave a comment

Filed under Jigs, Routers, Tall Clock

Knee Surgery or Not

106If you build Queen Anne or Chippendale furniture, you most likely have made cabriole legs. If you’ve cut and finished cabriole legs, you most likely have work on knee blocks. Or have you? Over the years, I have run into three methods used to address knee blocks.There are knee blocks that fit in front of aprons, those that fit under aprons and there are cabriole legs that do not use blocks at all.

One habit I got into as I work on these curvy legs is to keep my cutoffs. The material you cut away from legs as you sculpt them from blanks perfectly matches the legs; the grain is right and the color is right. 110That’s the best material to use for your knee blocks.

In the opening photo you can see the first step in knee block fabrication. There are a few things to remember as you work on blocks. In the Massachusetts High Chest of Drawers DVD (the piece shown in the first two photos), the apron is behind the block. (You don’t, however, attach the blocks to the apron; they still attach to the legs.) As you make these leg add-ons, it’s important to match the grain. That can be difficult.

As you profile the knee blocks, each time you complete a step, the grain changes. When you make the cut to the pencil line in the photo, the grain moves. As you round the piece in the second step of the process, grain moves again. Dressing TableYou need to be able to read the grain as it appears in the finished blocks if you want to achieve the perfect appearance when you’ve completed the work. As you also see in the above photo, color matches are important – I didn’t do so good on that task.

Some blocks fit under the apron, as seen to the left in the cover project from the June 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (#183). The importance of grain matching in this instance is the same. Even though the block fits under the apron, it still attaches to the leg and the grain should match. If the look and fit are correct, the connection appears seamless. That’s what you’re after.

This week I began building the Connecticut lowboy – and as always with me, I began with the legs. CT LowboyAnd I saved the cutoffs. As I got into the legs a bit farther, I realized that I didn’t need the extra material because these legs did not have knee blocks. What the maker did was round the material from the front of the knee to the inside edges. If you look at the legs straight on, you almost see a half circle as you view from the right side of the upper leg to the left side. It’s interesting when you first see it.

As you work the material to round the knee area, you also need to roll the material back toward the leg post. As I completed the shaping of the second leg, I realized that a #3, 20 carving gouge used inverted did a nice job rounding and rolling. (I used only my chisels sculpting the first leg.)

What struck me the hardest was that I was in the shop for about eight hours – probably worked for maybe five hours with all the talk and lunch – and two shaped legs was all that resulted. I could easily get all four legs complete a decade ago. I was reminded that my earlier shop was air-conditioned and working in the heat was most likely the cause for my lack of completion. Yeah. I’ll go with that. In my mind, though, I know it’s simply age.

Build Something Great!


Leave a comment

Filed under Back to Basics, Methods of Work

Make This Your First Lowboy

CT LowboyFor the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on SketchUp drawings for a Connecticut Lowboy discovered at the Connecticut Historical Society. The class happens at The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in September, immediately following the holiday weekend – the class runs from Tuesday through Saturday. (There are a few class spots left, so now would be a great time to contact Bob Van Dyke at the school to sign up.)

When I built The “Queen Anne Dressing Table” for the June 2010 cover of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I thought I had discovered the easiest-to-build lowboy ever. I was wrong. This project is easier, if you can believe that. And best of all, easy does not translate into ugly. IMG_0634In fact, when I wrote about my 2013 classes in January this year (read it here), I mentioned how this lowboy stopped both Van Dyke and me in our tracks.

What made the dressing table easy was that all the interior parts were nailed in place. What makes this piece easy is that there are few interior parts. Take a look at its inside. There is no top rail on the piece (the case top is the kicker to keep the drawers from tipping when extended), the two interior drawer dividers are solid pieces that run from front to back, drawer guides are nailed between the legs and the only runners are single pieces dovetailed into the front rail and centered in each opening.

Where a piece such as this picks up is pizazz is with details. One feature that makes this lowboy stand out is the cock-bead work at each of the cutouts in the front rail and at the sides. IMG_0623That work takes time to get right. But it adds a real punch to the finished piece. If you click to open the photo above, you can better see this detail. A second interesting detail, and one that makes me scratch my head and search for a connection, is the construction on the drawers. It’s not the fact that the bottoms are applied. That, along with the beaded moulding that wraps the drawer openings, indicates that this piece has an early origin. What I find interesting are the tapered drawer sides. This is nearly identical to the work found on the Shaker counter originally built by Grove Wright that I built for the June 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Is there a connection, or is this a construction method used in the region. Grove Wright spent time working at the Enfield, CT Shaker village.


Above is another photo of the interior of the Connecticut lowboy. In this photo you can see a drawer divider. Check out how the divider is angled as it stretches from front to back. Was this a way to save on material? Also notice how oxidation affects the coloration on the divider. What you see is not two pieces of lumber with different colors joined together. It’s the fact that the upper section has, for more than a hundred years, been protected by the drawer with the lower section constantly exposed to the elements.

You really should take the time to join us at CVSW as we build a great looking, simply constructed and high in detail Connecticut Lowboy. Register here.

Build Something Great!




Filed under Antique Pieces, Joinery