Shaping

After the summer-long Chair Making Journey, the desk is back on track. Now it's time for shaping the stand parts. To begin shaping the legs, I laid out the contours on an MDF template from my original design that I modeled in SketchUp. After mocking up the leg shape on a piece of poplar, I made a couple changes to increase the taper, created a new template and was then ready to go ahead with shaping the black walnut legs.

Shaping this graceful curve called for a compass plane that I fashioned from one of my older smoothing planes. Actually, this was the first wooden plane I ever made! It's still in active service, but now in a new role. If you squint a little bit while looking at the image below, you can see the slight curve of the plane's sole.

Tracing the new shape onto the sides of the legs makes it easy to maintain consistency on all four legs. Both the inside and outside faces of the legs are curved; convex on the inside and concave on the outside.

The top portion of the leg actually is straight, so that cut is first done against the fence on the band saw. For the curved cuts, I removed the fence and guided the legs into the blade freehand.

The compass plane works very much like a flat smoothing plane. With each stroke, the band saw marks gradually disappear, leaving a very sweet surface behind. This black walnut wood is a real pleasure to work with the hand plane.

The stretchers at each end have different radii in their curves, so I needed to decrease the radius on the compass plane to accommodate the smaller radius. I'm encountering very little reversing grain, so tear-out was not a big issue today. I just need to make sure the plane iron is good and sharp, with frequent trips to the sharpening station.

Lots of shavings hit the floor and need to be regularly cleared away before they get too deep!

With the basic shaping done, I'll now focus on the fit of the joinery. As all these parts were milled several months ago, there has been some movement; as indicated in the image below by the wedge-shaped gap at the joint between one of the legs and the long horizontal beam. That will require some attention, as will all of the joinery.

While I work on that, check out the final leg shape below. The graceful curve outward and the slight thickening of the leg near its base is intended to provide a relatively light, but strong appearance in the completed desk.

I'm also preparing a sample finish board for review and approval. The samples include: unfinished wood as a reference, and 1, 2 and 3 coats respectively of two finish options. They are: a 1:1 mixture of tung oil and mineral spirits, and a 1:1:1 mixture of tung oil, mineral spirits and Waterlox, which contains a bit of varnish for added protection, if desired. The image below shows the still-wet second coat of the 1:1:1 mixture.

I really like how the oil adds depth to the wood as it darkens the color and brings out the chatoyancy in the grain.

Well, I enjoy the writing, but I best get back to the woodworking.

Hej då and happy shavings!

Craig