To recap what’s been done so far, the case is dovetailed together with the drawer blade fitted. I’ve cut out and assembled my ogee feet but they look more like straight bracket feet at this point. Today, I’m going to make the base molding and get it fitted around the bottom of the case.
As you can see in the photo above, the case bottom is set back from the front of the case sides a bit. This is to allow for the base molding. You have to keep in mind the molding not only swells away from the front of the chest but it also dips back beyond the plane of the front of the chest in the middle. By stepping the case bottom back, it allows for the concave portion of the base molding plus a little extra so the molding has some rigidity. You’ll also notice I have no bottom blade installed in the chest. If you remember, we took two of our blades and routed one bead off with a flush cutting bit. The three double beaded blades were dovetailed into the case as horizontal drawer dividers (blades) while the top blade (with only one bead) was dovetailed into the sides to act as a top rail.
The first thing I do is line the blank for the molding up with my bottom blade and clamp them together. The offset you see in the picture is the difference between the width of the blade and the width needed to make the base molding come in contact with the case bottom. Once they are clamped together, I then need to transfer the shape of the blade to the molding blank. I do this by setting a compass to the desired spacing and scribing the molding blank to the bottom blade.
I then head off to the bandsaw and cut the molding out carefully following my scribe line. Time to take the piece to the spindle sander to shape the molding blank to my line. You could take it to the bench and shape it with a rasp, file and spokeshave if you don’t have a spindle sander.
Be as accurate as you can in shaping the molding blank to the blade. When the molding is routed to final shape, you’ll be able to see virtually every deviation from the scribe line.
In order to route the profile on this curved molding, I’ve made up an overhead ball bearing jig. I had mine made in a machine shop using a piece of plate aluminum for the body of the jig. They then put through the end a piece of threaded rod with a ball bearing attached to the bottom. A couple of jam nuts and a tee handle and the jig is good to go. You can make the same jig in the shop using a piece of plywood with a dowel inserted through the end.
The molding profile is fairly simple. It’s a cove with a fillet on top and one towards the bottom on the front. I usually draw the profile I want on the end of my molding blanks and use that as a template for setting up my router. I’ll begin routing this molding with the cove and do it in several passes. Just like with any larger molding, running it in several smaller passes to get to your final profile is easier on your bits, your router and the wood.
Once I have the cove routed to my layout on the end, I then set up a straight cutter and route in the two fillets. These are fairly straight forward. I just want to cut a couple of small rabbets, one at the top and one out on the front edge of the molding. This means I’ll need two settings for my router depth and two settings for my bearing jig. I run my outside fillet first and my top fillet last. You’ll understand why in a minute.
When the routing is complete, I line my bottom blade up on my newly routed molding to check that the spacing between the blade and the molding profile appears to be parallel. If it looks good, I move on. If not, I make whatever corrections are necessary to the shape of the molding blank and return to the router table to re-run the top fillet. As long as the variation wasn’t too much, I can get away with re-running only my top fillet because you’ll never see the variation between the blade and the outside fillet.
Once the molding is perfect, I scrape and sand it to final finish. I do the same with the blade and then it’s time to fit the molding and blade to the case. It’s pretty straight forward mitering. Since the molding is butted against the poplar case bottom, all I need to do is cope the ends around the case sides and miter. On some period chests, the molding is dovetailed into the case bottom. I thought this would have been pretty difficult for the average woodworker to attempt so I just butted the molding against the bottom.
Once the molding is glued in place, I can then glue and clamp the bottom blade in place. This sets the stage for our next segment, shaping and attaching the ogee feet. I know a lot of ground was covered today, and you may have questions. Ask away, that’s what the blog is for.