Arts & Crafts Legs: Like Gus

(Fig. 1) A true quartersawn white oak leg with flat-cut faces covered with quartersawn veneer cut about an 1/8″ thick.

This past week I had a few woodworkers in class to build a Stickley desk based on a L & JG Stickley #602 original. No, we didn’t keep the project as a true reproduction. We added side and rear slats to dress it up a bit, and updated different aspects to make the desk more usable – each woodworker picked and chose where to drift from the original design. I also drifted on my own as I built a desk to serve as a prototype. (You’ll see my version of this desk later next month when it’s released at 360 Woodworking – join now if you want full access to the presentation, including photos, scaled drawings and more.)

One area in which we changed from what was found on a #602 desk was in how we built legs. We just said no to Leopold’s quadrilinear posts, and to using a router table and specialized router bit. Instead, we followed how Gustav Stickley built legs by applying two thin quartersawn faces to the flat-cut edges of our leg stock (Fig. 1).  I prefer this method for Arts & Crafts legs because you have to study the wood and grain to make it come together.

While the process is easy, it’s often not possible, even when using quartersawn lumber, to come up with four legs that have perfect quartersawn faces. Many boards reach some degree of rift-sawn along the edges. As woodworkers we have to select the areas of the board to achieve the best faces, then we have to decide which of the legs become front legs – easily seen – and which to push to the back of the project to become less noticeable (Fig. 2). Those decisions and why we make them are indications of our skills as woodworkers.

(Fig. 2) This leg came from the same source as did the leg shown in Fig. 1, but you can see that the grain is almost at a 45° angle. It’s rift-sawn. This leg was destined for the rear of the desk because the medullary rays weren’t there. Surprisingly, a leg with this grain orientation would be perfect for furniture from other periods.

I also think that it’s ingenious to chamfer the leg corners to hide the addition of the thin face.

— Glen D. Huey

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2 thoughts on “Arts & Crafts Legs: Like Gus

  1. Works a treat. On more than one occasion when I didn’t have enough “pretty” QS material to make the core of the leg from two layers, I just re-sawed more and inserted a 3rd core piece of lesser oak. Might be introducing more tensions (expansion) into the leg but I doubt it makes that much difference over 1-5/8″ width.

    1. It’s a lot like plywood. As long as you’re balancing the plys on both sides of the “lesser-oak” core you should be good. Covering the other edges with a nice piece of QS makes your technique gold.

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