You may have noticed, in the previous posts on this project, a picture of a table with splayed legs and low stretchers laying on my bench. That is the table this project is based on, it was built in Georgia between 1735 and 1740 and is said to be the oldest surviving piece of furniture built in Georgia. I will tell more about it at the end of the posts on the build. What drew me to the piece was the way the legs attach to the case or box, from the photograph of the piece on the web you cannot tell how the legs are attached. I couldn’t imagine a simple way to build this piece that should last 276 years. I called the museum that owns the piece and was able to talk to a very helpful curator who looked into all of my questions and got back to me with the information I needed. Based on that information with a few changes this is what I came up with.
First I turned the 4 legs, actually I turned 9 legs to get 4 usable ones, I don’t know why I had so much trouble turning these legs they look easy, a really good turner should be able to turn these with nothing but a gouge in about 5 minuets each. I, however kept getting catches and ruined a lot of the thick cherry. I’ve seen several English and a few Colonial pieces with this type of ball turning. It appears to me that each ball is cut with only two cuts of a gouge leaving a small cove connecting the balls. Sometimes if the balls are stretched it is called sausage turning.
After the legs were made I put the box on the bench, bottom up and held one of the legs on the corner of the box, by tipping it to a splay angle that looked right, I determined that I had to remove about a 1/4″ of material from the outside corner of each leg to get the legs to sit on the box at the right angle. I marked each leg and cut off the waste. Here the legs are just sitting on the bottom of the box. I used a plastic protractor to try and get a ballpark angle from the picture but in the end I just did it directly by eye.
Once I had the top of the legs trimmed I used a cutting gauge to cut a square on each corner of the box bottom that matched the position of the legs, with a router plane I removed about an 1/8″ of the squares so the legs sat in a shallow recess. When every thing looked right I glued the legs into the recesses. I know this is not a great joint design, but remember the original is over 250 years old.
With the glue dry I cleaned up the joints with a chisel.
I then rubbed two glue blocks on each leg with hot hide glue.
From the inside of the box I drilled a 1/2″ hole thru the bottom of the box and into the legs and glued a pin into each leg. I could have cut an integral tenon onto each leg but this would have made it more difficult to make the legs and line them up with the corners. Usually simple is better.