In this installment I’m going to work primarily on the ogee feet but I had better remove those clamps I had on the base molding from the last segment. With the clamps off the case, it really starts to look like I’m making some progress. I have milled and assembled my case. I have the drawer blades dovetailed into the case making sure my beaded front is addressed and I’ve made an attached my curved base molding. Cut out and shape some feet today. Once they’re glued on, I’m down to shaping drawer fronts, dovetailing drawers and finishing. Well, there’s a few other odds and ends that need to get tossed in there but at least it sounds like the end is in sight.
Now I make my ogee feet a little differently than most other people. As you saw in an earlier installment, I milled boards for the feet. Then I laid out the interior foot cutout, mitered the corners and cutout the interior of the foot. I then glued them up as if they were straight bracket feet. Most people make up a length of ogee molding and then cutout the interior of their feet and miter them together. I’ve always found this to be difficult. Your pattern doesn’t lay flat on the ogee molding. You get variation in the layout of each foot facing because it’s hard to trace the pattern. Once you get the moldings mitered, it’s hard to clamp the facings together because of the curved nature of their faces. So the solution is pretty simple, make them straight. The pattern lays flat on the facing for cutout and, once it’s mitered, it’s easy to assemble. Now you’re saying “But I wanted OGEE feet on this chest.”.
The solution is simple. Cut them out after they’re glued up. This jig is easy to make and use. Simply attach a piece of milled 12/4 stock to a plywood base. Make sure both ends are square. The foot facing then rests on top of the jig and you bandsaw out the ogee following your layout. Once you saw the first facing, the end grain of the adjacent side acts as a pattern to saw the second profile. For this piece, I need to remember to cut my front foot facings so that I have allowed for the curve. Otherwise, I’ll end up with an ogee foot that tucks under my base molding instead of one that follows the curve.
Once I get the facings cut out, it’s time to do a little shaping. For the rear feet and the side facings on the front feet, I head to the spindle sander to get me started. For those curved front foot facings, I turn to hand tools.
I begin by holding the foot in place on the chest. I then trace the curve of the base molding onto the top edge of the front foot facing. I start with a chisel to get close to the lines. Take a spokeshave and finish off the upper part of the ogee.
Wherever I can, I try to use my block plane to help get the curves cleaned up nicely. For the concave portions of the foot, I rely pretty much on carving tools and scrapers to finish off the surface. A curved spokeshave also works well. Get all four feet scraped and sanded up and it’s ready for the final fit.
I usually hold each foot into place on the bottom of the chest and make sure the top edge of the foot follows the edge of the base molding perfectly. If it doesn’t, scribe the top edge of the foot and head back to the bench to touch up the line.
Once the feet are all perfectly shaped, It’s time to get them glued onto the case. Since the feet don’t really carry the weight of the piece, they just need to be lightly clamped to the molding. If my base molding won’t accommodate clamping the feet as shown, I’ll sometimes make up coped blocks to keep my clamps aligned properly. Since the base molding on this piece provides a decent clamping surface, I don’t bother with adding the blocks.
Again, the feet do not need to be heavily clamped to the base molding. A light clamping is all that is needed otherwise you will damage the base molding. I try to position my clamps in such a way that I can move on to the blocking stage while the feet are gluing to the base molding. If you prefer to wait until the foot facings are dry before you fit your blocks, it won’t hurt a thing.
The blocks are what carry the weight of the piece. On period pieces there is a large corner block that is placed, surprisingly, in the corner of the foot. I use the traditional cross grain construction but if you want to make up horizontally oriented corner blocks, knock yourself out. In over thirty years of making feet this way, I never recall one cracking or coming loose. The corner blocks are made so that they extend 1/8″ beyond the foot facings. This way, they carry the weight of the chest and stop the foot facings from catching on the floor if the chest is dragged around (not everyone is as careful with their furniture as you and I).
To hold the foot facing with its corner block on the chest, I add two more blocks along the interior of the foot facing that attach to the under side of the molding. All the blocks are shaped to the curves of the feet so that you won’t see them when the chest is sitting on the floor.
What you see in the picture, is typical ogee foot construction (it’s also typical for straight bracket feet). The idea is to carry the load of the piece with the blocks and use the glue surface of the foot facings and blocks to keep everything together.
Next time, we’ll start shaping drawer fronts and dovetailing drawers.