Friday, April 10, 2009

tapering legs

Today I am tapering legs for the tables I'm making. These will be an unusual design, combining rustic edges, a meandering cut through the top, and legs that have the elegance of more traditional furniture. Like nearly everything else I do in the wood shop, these tables are experimental. If I know exactly how something is going to turn out, what will I learn from it?

The simple tapering jig in use above is made with a piece of plywood and has a runner underneath like those used in more common table saw sleds. The jig carries the wood through the cut with the angle determined by the fence. To change the adjustment of the fence, you just reposition it with screws, and a small block at the end keeps the stock from sliding out of position.

One added benefit I'll note concerning my new saw. The riving knife that rises from the saw at the back edge of the blade serves to hold the stock in position throughout its cut, making this task far easier and providing better, safer control throughout the operation.

I can hardly describe for my readers the pleasure one can find in the creative process. You watch things happen in your own hands, guided by tools that have become old friends having shared so many creative adventures in your past. It is amazing to me that in our educational system and in our culture, we do so much to distract our children and ourselves from our creative potentials and the deep psychic rewards thereof.

In the photos below, you will see some additional progress, first a trial fitting of the stretchers, then the holes drilled for the triangulating side to side stretchers. If you have read my book, Making Elegant Custom Tables, you will find this design technique in Chapter 4.


  1. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Beautiful work as always, and congratulations on your well deserved recognition by the Arts Council. We readers in the UK are fascinated by the graphite/shellac finish on the incense boxes, can you tell us more about how it is done? Thanks Iain and crew

  2. Thanks for your kind words.

    The graphite/shellac finish is one I learned from Dolf Smith, a well known maker of art books. He teaches at our Eureka Springs School of the Arts each year. His books are each sculptural forms, perhaps not having the literary content we might be used to, but are none the less literary as well as visual.

    You take shellac straight from the can and add an equal part powdered graphite and mix it thoroughly. You just brush it on, and then when it is fully dried, polish it with a fibered kitchen pot scrubber. The scrubber reveals high lights in the finish and accentuates whatever variations in surface you have engineered. You can add veneers, cardboard, hot melt glue, anything that will stick and add texture to the surface. When it is done, it looks like welded steel.

  3. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Hello Doug. I came across this posting while researching the shellac/graphite mixture. I have coated an object in the mixture and burnished it to a very nice sheen. It a beautiful finish but the graphite rubs off onto everything it contacts. Can you recommend a sealer of some kind to coat the object without affecting the finish? Some sort of fixative maybe? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Jerry

  4. I would try a clear sealer like that sold as a finish coat for milk paint. Try Or a spray shellac for a shiny look, or spray satin urethane for a satin finish.

  5. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Thanks for the suggestions. I appreciate your help.

  6. i am using the graphite shellac mixture but seem to be having the same problem as jerry. i have tried a spray varnish with a matt finish and also a coat of clear shellac. but both these procedures
    robs the project of that metal aspect.and if i leave the box without a overcoat , well i get black hands. since the art project is to be a hands on project i need a solution.
    anybody found a solution to this

  7. I haven't considered the small amount of graphite that rubs onto the hands to be that much of a problem. have you tried the Clear coat from Ye Old Milk Paint Co.? That would be my next attempt, but I suspect that it, too would darken the color and diminish its metallic quality. You might ask Dolph Smith about it as he is the one who taught the technique to me.