Now that the leg pieces are cut to their rough shape, we need to focus on blending the parts using an assortment of tools including a router, a ball mill, and a cabinet-maker’s rasp. You’ll notice that much of the sculpting work is done before the glueup. I find it much easier to work on these parts in smaller pieces rather than trying to work the entire finished leg at once.
The first step in sculpting the leg parts is rounding over with the router. The router removes a great deal of material in a short amount of time and it gives me a nice jump start on the visualization process. A dry assembly after the roundover helps me strategize my next move, which happens to be thinning out the “ankles” of the legs. The vertical post of the leg is slightly narrower than the feet so I need to blend the pieces gracefully. This is where the ball mill comes in handy. The ball mill can remove material quick or it can be used for fine finesse work. It’s all in how you approach the wood. Because of it’s round shape, the ball mill leaves a ribbed surface. So I follow up with some rasp work. The rasp levels the surface and helps blend the various angles and contours. There’s still some finesse work to do but we’ll handle that after the glueup.
Because of the odd angle of our legs, this could be a tricky glueup. The key is to run the clamp parallel to the vertical leg member. In order to do that, we’ll need some way of giving the clamp heads purchase on a flat surface. Fortunately, I remembered that I had some off-cuts from the initial bandsaw work. These off-cuts, with the addition of a notch, make the perfect contoured cauls for this clamping operation.
The glue I’m using is West System Epoxy. The long working time is perfect for complex glueups. Furthermore, the leg joint has a lot of end grain to long grain glue surface which is inherently weak. Using epoxy should help strength the joint.
After the glue dries, we can look at the legs as a single entity and begin fine-tuning the appearance. Remember, the goal is to make these pieces look as if there were carved from a single piece of wood. So my number one mission is to blend the parts smoothly. I use everything from a rasp to a card scraper to a random orbit sander to get the job done.
The top is going to be made from two very large 14″ wide boards. Trying to mill heavy rough timbers like this can be quite a challenge, so I am employing the skip planing technique. Skip planing involved passing the rough boards through the planer taking very light passes and flipping the board each time. If the boards are fairly straight to begin with, the end result will be a nearly perfect flat board.
Once milled, the two halves are jointed using a hand plane, a circular saw, or a jointer, and then glued together. I use Dominos to help keep the boards aligned during glueup. The ends of the top receive a slight curve for visual appeal. With the top upside down and sanded thoroughly, there will never be a better time to apply the finish there. So I throw on a few quick coats of Arm-R-Seal Satin. Sometimes it just makes sense to finish the hidden parts of a project first, rather than worrying about it after final assembly.