Monday, June 21, 2010

Written Instructions for Making a Cabriole Leg

I did not realize how much my international readers might rely on the Google translation capability to read this blog. Nor did I realize the disadvantage they might experience when I posted my video about how to make cabriole legs. So, today's blog will be written instructions for how to create cabriole legs for your miniatures.
 You can cut cabriole legs with a table bench jigsaw, a band saw or a hand coping saw. I would not try to cut them using a hand-held power jigsaw, because the pieces of wood you will work with are so small, it would be very difficult to control the cutting process.  The table jigsaw can handle up to about an inch thick piece of wood (at the most). A band saw might handle a slightly thicker piece of wood; however, the overall width and depth of cabriole legs rarely exceeds one inch in a miniature.

I have made cabriole legs out of pine, bass, cherry and walnut wood. I have not tried other exotic woods. I would not recommend using especially hard woods - they might look great when finished, but cutting exceptionally hard woods may take its toll on your saw blade or your patience!

The first step in the process is to draw the shape of your cabriole leg or find one on the Internet or in a book featuring furniture with cabriole legs. For your convenience, I've posted a picture with this blog showing a table leg (2.7" tall - or about 32" tall) and a chair leg (1.3" or about 16" tall) that you can use.

The next step is to  print out a paper copy of the  leg design. Your paper copy must have both the left and right view of the leg in a perfectly vertical position. (My pictures above provides this.) Try to make sure that you leave a little white space - approximately 1/8" or more between the widest point of both legs (which the illustration above also has). Draw a vertical line between the two legs. You will fold your paper copy along this vertical line. (The above picture has a line centered between the two halves of the cabriole legs.)

Cut your pieces of wood so that they are the same width and depth. Next, make sure the length (height) of this piece of wood is about 1/2" longer than the cabriole leg. The wood grain should be in the long direction of the piece of wood.

Use double-stick tape to secure the paper copy of the leg to your wood. I buy this kind of tape at my local business office supply store. You can sometimes get it in large rolls that are about 3/4" wide or in smaller rolls that are about 1/2" wide.  Either width works just fine.

Put the tape on the back side of the paper. For the ease of fastening the paper to your piece of wood, don't put any tape along the edge where you have folded the paper. Make sure your tape extends slightly beyond the leg image on all sides. Once you've added the tape to the paper, then carefully fasten the picture to your piece of wood. The fold should touch one angle of the wood blank all the way down so that there is no gap anywhere between the paper and the wood.

You are now ready to cut the first side of the leg. Start at the top or the bottom of the long portion of wood to begin your cut. Be consistent in how you cut the piece - make your blade cut precisely through the lines or precisely on the outside edge of the line. Try not to go back and forth between cutting on the line or outside of the line - cutting that way will result in a disappointing cabriole leg. Cut all the way past the the bottom of the leg by about 1/8 to 1/4", then curve around  and cut the other side of the leg. Cut all the way back up to the top of the piece of wood and out the end near where you started your cut. You will now have two pieces of wood. Feel free to take the piece out and look at it, then insert it back where you took it out. Take some clear tape and wrap it around the pieces to hold the loose piece of wood in place within the block of wood.

Now turn the piece of wood to the side that has not been cut and repeat this process. When finished making the second cut, tape the piece back together once more. Now that you have the blank cut out, you can cut the top and bottom of the leg. If you have a table saw, I would recommend using that saw to cut a precise, right angle across the top and the bottom of the cabriole leg. That way, you'll be certain that you have a precise, 90 degree cut on the leg. If you don't have a table saw, then I'd recommend cutting the leg with a hobbyist's miter saw. If you prefer to make the cut with your table saw, take a try square, mark a line across the top and the bottom of the leg, and cut very carefully so that you end up with a squared off top and bottom.

You are then ready to peel away the tape you have placed around the pieces of the leg. You will have nine different pieces of varying shapes. Only one - the one in the center of the pieces - will be the cabriole leg. All the other pieces, though interesting, are scrap.

Sand the extended edge of the cabriole leg to round it and shape it to your preferences. Repeat the process until you have the number of cabriole legs you need for your piece of furniture. Good luck! Send me pictures if you have a completed piece. I'd love to see what you make!

1 comment:

Catherine said...

Thank you George for this wonderful tutorial. I am going to try it. I have wanted to make a chair for a long time.

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