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Building Walnut Legs

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Blog entry by BenhamDesign posted 07-25-2018 04:09 AM 610 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In this video I tackle a request from my daughter, she loves Gymnastics and wanted a beam to practice on at home. I design and build a pair of sculpted walnut legs. Then I build and upholster a balance beam for the legs to support.
If you are interested in watching it be built please watch the video

Thanks for checking it out.
Today, I’m making a pair of walnut furniture legs, because my daughter wants a balance beam, because she loves Gymnastics.

Design is an iterative process, I’m always building off the last thing, analyzing, erasing, redoing, refining, until I get the best shape as I can.
These legs followed that design process. I started out with a scrap piece of plywood to use as a template. I mark out some basic measurements, outlining the rough size I wanted the legs to be. Then went to work sketching out the curves, refining them until I found a shape I like.
I know every woodworking magazine out there has a tips section showing someone tracing the outline of paint can as an easy way of creating a curve. But if I did it the easy way my curves would look just like everyone else’s curves. For that reason, when I design I try to stay away from the usual tips and mathematical formulas such as the golden ratio. I try to trust my design eye, and feel I have trained it over the years to recognize good proportions and shapes. So if it looks good to me, I hope it will look good to others.
Once I was satisfied with the design of the leg I cut it free and headed over to the band saw to rough out the shape.
I cut it to the right height at the table, then drew in the lower curve and cut it out at the band saw.
When I was cutting the leg out at the band saw I made sure I left the line so I could smooth out the saw marks and refine the shape at the spindle sander
Now it was time to mill some stock to build the legs out of, I used the template I had made as a quick reference to set the width of the table saw, and ripped the parts to their final width.
I used the template to trace out the shape of the leg on the stock, flipped it over, lined up my center mark and traced the other side. By flipping it, it ensures that the piece will be symmetrical.
It’s a lot easier to cut the mortises for the floating tenons when the stock is still square. Once I cut the mortises, I head to the band saw to cut out the legs.
The pencil line was a little hard to see against the dark walnut so I set up a portable light on the saw, which worked out pretty well.
I cut the legs about a 1/16th of an inch oversized, so I could clean up the saw marks and make a perfect match to the template with a pattern bit at the router. I used a little double stick tape to hold the pieces together. The blue tape is to make to easier to break it apart easier after routing.

I took multiple passes, taking small bites with each pass as I routed through the curves. If not carful the end grain can catch and ruin the work piece.
I also routed with the flow of the grain, or downhill as I routed the end grain, this also greatly reduce the possibility a catch. Then when it was time to rout the other side I flipped the work piece over not the template, this way I was always routing downhill, reducing the chance of a catch.
Then I used a ¾” radius round over bit to give the leg a nice gentle sculpted shape. Since I’m rounding over all 4 sides, on 2 of the sides I had no choice but to route uphill into the end grain on the curves. To prevent the wood from catching and blowing out a chunk I took many, many shallow passes until I had created a full round over.
Now that the legs are done except for a little sanding I moved on to making the bean. I just used standard construction lumber. I Jointed a few 2×8 flat and sent them through the planer to make the other side parallel. I ripped the boards to their final width at the table saw, spread some glue and clamped them up.
A couple of the boards where not flush, so after the glue dried I ran them across the jointer to reestablish a flat edge, and sent them through the planer to flush everything up.
After everything was squared back up I cut the mortises for the floating tenons to attach the legs.
The beam is going to be wrapped in Suede, and attached with staples from the underside. To be sure no little fingers get cut on a wayward staple I am routing a recess for the staples to go.
Multiple passes with the router left the end of the recess a little jagged so I used a chisel to clean up the ends
I wanted the legs to fit inside the recess, so I used a dado blade to cut a shoulder on the top creating a little tenon.
So no one cracks their head open on the sharp corner, I used a round over bit to ease the edge
My wife picked out nice red suede. I rolled it out and cut it a little wider than I needed so I would have plenty of material to work with
Then I started wrapping the beam. I stared in the middle, stapling one side then stretching and stapling the other side, working my way to the ends
The corners were a little difficult. I just kept working at it, folding, and stapling, then cutting off the excess and folding and stapling some more. I took a while, but I finally ended up with a neatly folded corner.
Then I used a little epoxy and glued on the legs.
As a final step to conceal the staples, I billed a piece of wood to fit inside the channel I had created earlier and secured it with a few screws.
Now I realize having walnut legs on a balance beam that my daughter will grow out of in no time, may be a little extravagant. But that’s one of the great things about being a maker, you can make extravagant thing just for fun.

Thank you, Brian Benham

-- What I do in and out of the shop at http://www.BriansBenham.com



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