Notes from the Shop...

Bell Bottom Legs & Tapered Aprons

I love the look of bell-bottom legs on tables and desks. It's a terrible pun, but they just have a certain flair about them that is pleasing to my eye. Widest at the base, the curve sweeps inward as you move up the leg and then flares out again at the top -- not a lot, but enough to notice. It's easy to go overboard with this; too much is not so good. Over time, I've increasingly shaped the edges on these kinds of legs, mostly with spokeshaves and block planes, to give them a softer look and feel.


I've also come to realize that an apron that is tapered to follow the outward flare at the top of the leg looks best. This creates a uniform reveal between the face of the leg and the face of the apron. It's a subtle thing, and more work, but the result is a more harmonious meeting of apron and leg. This is shown in the sketches below. The amount of taper is exaggerated in these sketches for clarity.
apron2 apron1
I create the taper using my 8" jointer in a manner that sounds more difficult than it really is. I mark the taper angle on the end grain of the apron (after the tenons are cut), and run roughly a third of the apron face over the jointer (guard must be off - so I do this very carefully). The part being cut (the waste in the sketch above) is the bottom third of the outward face of the apron. This creates a rabbet or step on the apron face. I do this several times progressively running more of the apron over the knives. Then when I run the whole face over the jointer I make sure my pressure is directed towards the side of the of board where I've created the rabbets or steps. I then look at the taper angle I marked on the end of the apron and repeat these half on/half off cuts until I'm close to the desired taper angle. I finish up using hand planes. The waste removed at the bottom of the face amounts to only 1/4 in. or 3/8" so this whole step can be accomplished in less time it has taken me to write this.


June 2009

Earlier Notes from the Shop:
- Fall 2008
- April 2009