In this week’s installment, I’m going be working on the ogee feet. As a quick recap, last time I got all the blades dovetailed into the case. My next step is to disassemble the dry fitted case, scrape all the interior surfaces and glue up. Now I know last time I said something about putting in the drawer runners but when I look at it, that’s not really a hard process. After all, it’s just a few pieces of poplar fitted into the dadoes of the case sides. So, I’ll do that at some point after I have the case glued up.
For now, let’s get the interior surfaces cleaned up of machine marks. Traditionally, if you look at most period pieces, the inside of the cases were not prepped to the same degree of finish as the outside. Interior surfaces were left rough scraped or even scrub planed. You can probably guess what I’m going to do. That’s right, I’m going to scrapethe case sides and scrub plane the bottom and top back cleat. I get started by scraping the case sides and all the blades. The reason I scrape these instead of hitting them with a hand plane is, scraping removes less material. Since I already have my blades fitted, I don’t want to remove too much stock or I will lose my nice tight fit.
I then move on to scrub planing the bottom and the top back cleat, which are both poplar. The reason I scrub plane the top back cleat is, it isn’t fitted to anything other than the dovetails on the ends that go into the case sides. This leaves a nicely planed surface. If you look at the larger version of the photo, you’ll see that the areas where I have not planed the bottom are covered in lines. I do this with a lumber crayon as a means of insuring that I remove all the machine marks from the entire surface.
Now that I have all the parts cleaned up, I move on to gluing up the case. The process is very simple. So simple in fact that I’m just going to run through the steps without adding pictures. Start with the two case sides, the bottom and the two top cleats. Glue both sides of each joint. In this case both the tails and the pins of the dovetails. Assemble. Then glue both sides of each joint for the blades, the sockets in the case sides and the tails on the ends of the blades. Assemble. Pretty tricky stuff, eh?
Here’s the hardest part. Once you get the whole case assembled, check it for square. I do this by measuring corner to corner in both directions. If the measurements are the same, the case is square. Simple geometry. This assumes that my case sides are the same length and my top cleats and bottom are the same as well. You’ll notice that I never said I clamped the case. That’s because I didn’t. If I’ve fitted my dovetails correctly, I don’t need to clamp my case. The only reasons I would throw a clamp on the case at this point is if I’m dramatically out of square or I have an open joint somewhere because I did a poor fit on my joint.
Ok, enough of the boring stuff. Let’s get into making some feet. The first thing I do is make a pattern for my ogee feet. Then I mill and layout the feet on my stock. In the picture, you’ll notice I have stock of several thicknesses. I also have a piece of poplar milled. The reason for this is, the pile contains not only my foot stock but my drawer fronts as well. My feet are made up of two different thicknesses of cherry as well as some poplar. The front foot facings are made up of two parts, the front and the side facings. The front facings, because of the curve of the front of the case has to be thicker than the side facings. So, I have milled the front foot facings out of 8/4 stock, which is what I have used for my drawer fronts as well. This is why I milled the drawer fronts at the same time I milled the stock for my feet, efficiency.
My rear feet are made up of an outside facing made from cherry and a back that’s made from poplar. Typically on 18th Century furniture, they would not use a primary (translated to expensive) wood in a place where it isn’t seen. Now on to the layout.
Nothing exciting here. You just need to make sure you have the proper number and orientation of foot facings. So, that would mean two front foot facings laid out in opposite directions, similar to the photo. You would also need four side foot facings. Two pair laid out in each direction (take what is in the photo and double it). You’ll also need that piece of poplar. You’ll see why in just a bit.
Head off to the crosscut saw and cut the cherry foot facings to rough length. I miter the ends exactly on the ogee side of the front foot facings, flush with my ogee layout lines. That’s because my front foot facings and my side foot facings are going to be mitered together. The rear foot facings I cut square at the ogee layout lines.
I then head off to the bandsaw and cut out the interior part of the foot facings. When I’m finished, it will look like I have a pile of straight bracket foot parts. Do not cut out the ogee layout lines. You’ll see why in another installment.
My next step is to take my rear foot facings and trace my ogee layout on the end of the foot facing. If you click the photo, you might be able to discern where I drew the ogee on the end of the foot. This does two things. First it tells me how deep I can cut my dado to join the poplar back. Lastly, it give me a line to saw to when it’s time to make these things into ogee feet. Remember this step in a future installment.
Now I layout my rear foot joint. It’s basically a dado in the foot facing and a rabbet in the poplar back. You’ll see that the poplar back is set pretty far forward into the side foot facing. The measurement from the end of the foot facing to the face of my poplar back is the depth of my backboard rabbet in the case sides. In this case, 5/8″.
The depth of the joint on the back foot facing is regulated by the curve of the ogee. Make it deep enough to actually hold the foot together but not so deep that when we shape the ogee foot you cut through the facing and expose the joint.
The joint for the rear foot is cut on the tablesaw. Set up your stack dado and cut to the layout lines. Time to hand plane or scrape all the interior surfaces to get rid of any machine marks. After the interior (actually both the interior and exterior surfaces on the poplar backs can be prepped) surfaces are devoid of machine marks, it’s time to glue these puppies up.
The front foot facings can be a little tricky. If you are having too much trouble, you can add a small spline to help line up the joints and hold things in place as you glue up. I try to avoid this if possible just because I’m a bit paranoid about coming though once I shape the feet into ogees. The back feet are fairly easy to glue up. I just run my rabbets on both ends of my poplar board and then glue up both rear feet as one assembly. I separate them later. Gluing them up as one unit just means fewer clamps.
In the larger version of the rear foot joint, you can see where I extended my joint layout line down the end grain of the foot facing. This was done when I was planning my joint. It’s what I was talking about when I said you want to make the joint deep enough to hold but shallow enough not to come through when we shape the feet. As you can see, I’m well away from the deepest part of the curve on the foot facing. I can’t stress this consideration enough. After you’ve gone to all this trouble, it’s very frustrating to shape the feet and expose the joint. So, plan properly and avoid the axiom “measure once, curse twice”.
Next time, we’ll unclamp those feet and shape them up and we’ll get the base molding made. Until then, please post any questions or comments you have. I know you’re out there!