Episode #15: Porringer Tea Table – Part 4

To the uninitiated, shaping cabriole legs can appear to be an arduous task. The thought of doing it only with hand tools can make it even more intimidating (almost every magazine article I’ve ever seen uses a band saw to do the majority of the stock removal). The trick is to not psyche yourself out before you even start. Convincing yourself that you can do it is half the battle (trust me, you can do it). The other half of the battle is taking a seemingly complicated leg shape (it’s really not that complicated) and breaking the shaping of it down into small, manageable steps. It may take you some time, but this is supposed to be fun, so take your time and enjoy it.

I’ll warn you now that this episode is rather long. There are a lot of small steps to take to get from rough, square blank to finely shaped curves. I think you’ll be surprised how fast the time goes when you are watching it though. I usually don’t like watching myself, but even I enjoyed this episode. So grab a cup of coffee and sit back and enjoy. Then get out in your shop and work on your own!


 

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19 thoughts on “Episode #15: Porringer Tea Table – Part 4

  1. Bob
    Nicely done and very enjoyable to watch. Now, where did the ‘finish the rip cut from the bottom of the vice’ come from was it an ‘ah-ha’ moment or did you pick that tip up somewhere? Also, does someone make those v-cut hand screw clamps or is that another technique that you picked up along the way? Again thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • JL,
      Ripping under the vise was something I just sort of stumbled on because I couldn’t figure out another way to finish the rip easily. Because the foot is in the way, I can’t start the rip from the other side and meet the previous cut like I normally would, I have to rip all from one direction. Because the length and width of the piece is relatively small, it is awkward to hold it on the saw bench. Sawing under the vise was something that sort of just came to me. Regarding the hand screw with the “V” notch, it’s just a normal hand screw that I cut the notches in with a backsaw. They use a similar style clamp down in Williamsburg for carving, which is where I got the idea from several years ago. Adam Cherubini showed one similar to the Williamsburg clamp in his articles on carving the ball & claw feet for his Philadelphia side chair.

  2. Bob,

    Great episode, your best yet! It was great to see the leg develop throughout. I know I have seen the guide line technique done before and I need to adopt that as a way to keep my legs looking similar. Up til now my cabrioles have just been flying by the seat of my pants. Great work, can’t wait for the next episode.

    • Shannon,
      The guide lines do definitely help maintaining more consistency. I try to redraw guides in whenever I can. If my carving removes some lines, I’ll redraw them. It’s much easier to tweak a pencil line if it doesn’t look right than it is to put wood back on if it doesn’t look right ;).

  3. Bob, nice series of techniques. Very clear and understandable. Look forward to more.

    You mentioned the foot use to be turned on the lathe. I saw a video of Allan Batty turning an entire cabriole leg by moving the center point up and down from the original center to generate the curved look. I’m sure it takes years of practice to do that well. Not for the average guy, but it was fascinating to watch him do it with just a skew chisel.

    On the other hand, last night on Lumberjocks, someone submitted a review of a 5-axis CNC machine that can knock out legs without you ever having to pick up a tool. I guess that’s for those where woodworking is not so much fun after all. Might look nice but you can’t really call it your own.

    • Vince,
      I wouldn’t imagine turning the entire leg would have been common practice in the period. I think it’s pretty obvious from looking at antique pieces that the feet were turned, but going through the trouble to turn the entire leg would seem to be more effort than it would be worth. The leg cross section on cabriole legs isn’t round, except at the ankle, so turning to me would seem to be a more difficult way to go about it. There are examples of turned cabriole legs that are completely round but they are typically straight legs that are tapered and turned round with a pad foot. They don’t have the nice “S” curve along their length.

      Regarding the CNC, well…..never mind :o.

      • You’re right. I went back and looked at the video again and that’s what he did. It’s all round, but the taper is skewed off center so it comes down to the back of the foot. It gives a cabriole look, but there’s no knee. Now that I compare the two, I appreciate there’s a big difference. Yours is true to form.

        • Vince,
          That makes sense to me. I was having a hard time imagining how to turn the typical “S” shaped cabriole shape. The leg type you are describing was a traditional form as well. Have a look at this example built by Jeffrey Greene http://www.jeffreygreenenewport.com/tea_table_porringer.jpg.

          This form is often thought of as a rural style leg, though I’m not sure I completely buy that. I think it was likely a less expensive option for those who couldn’t afford the more time consuming “S” shaped style. The turned leg could be made much faster and likely from smaller stock as well, which would make it less expensive.

  4. Bob

    What a great episode; lots of good info. The Porringer Tea Table is a great series, and the audio quality is getting better and better on the podcast.

    I’d be interested in knowing how many hours of work the whole project will take you.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

    • Duncan,
      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the episode! So far I estimate I’ve spent about 8-10 hours on the building of the project (not including the design time), but the majority of that time has been spent shaping the legs. On average I’d estimate it takes about 2 hours per leg. I figure in the end this table should have somewhere between 20 and 30 hours in it. Certainly not an exorbitant amount of time, but not a weekend project either.

  5. Thanks for another great episode. It’s way cool of you to post these pod-cast. Love that you do everything with hand tools. Nice to see you putting your homemade saws to use too. They look great and look like they work as well as they look!

    • Thanks Jamie! The saws do cut pretty sweet. Their looks aren’t as well refined as a Wenzloff, Bad Axe or other premium saw (compared to those saws, mine are pretty rough actually) but they work well, and that is what is most important to me. I really think just about any saw can be turned into a good worker with a good hand filing. My dovetail saw was made from a drywall knife but cuts just as well as any premium doevtail saw. It doesn’t hold an edge as long as one made from better steel, and doesn’t look as pretty as a premium saw, but it files easier and only cost me about $20 and some spare time. Someday, when I file it down to the point that it is no longer useable, I’ll replace the saw plate with better steel (like I used in my tenon and sash saw) but for now, it works.

  6. Wonderful episode! I thought that the v notch for holding the leg was clever. I’m still waiting for my wood to settle. 😀

    • Martin,
      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the episode! The v-notch really wasn’t my idea. I stole it from a clamp that they use in Williamsburg for similar purposes. It does work well though.

  7. Well, a bit of a setback in the project. I wasn’t willing to spring for the price of 12/4 cherry for the legs and laminated three 4/4 boards together figuring that it would be fine. Looked fine during the initial leg building steps. But when I started cutting the curves away it led from the grain of one board into the other. It now looks like the leg was cut off half way up and a different piece of wood was glued on.

    Lesson learned – on Saturday I’ll be buying some 12/4 stock and using my experience so far to do an even better job on the new set of legs.

    Good thing I enjoy this hobby. lol

    • Bummer Jeff. I should have mentioned that. Laminating thinner stock works ok for practice legs, but the glue lines will show and the grain will not flow together well in the final leg if you use it for the real thing. It’s fine if you plan to paint the table, but for a clear, or dyed finish where the grain will show, it doesn’t work so well, as you found out the hard way. No big deal, just think of the first leg(s) as good practice for the 12/4 stock. You’ll be an old pro at it now. Watch how much faster the next set goes ;).

  8. Bob,
    New to the trade. I have been toying with some hand tools with a neaderthal neighbor. I am embarrassed to say that it didn’t take me long for a 24″ jointer plane to wear me out. Did you find that it took some time to get “in shape” physically with hand tools?

    • Danny,
      I wouldn’t say I had to get in shape. I’m still not :). I just take it easy and work at a comfortable pace. It’s supposed to be fun. If you were using a #8 size metal jointer, that is a heavy plane. My wooden planes are not nearly that heavy.

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