One of the first things I notice on a well-made table or desk is the legs. Table legs with straight, even grain really make a project stand out. But there’s a little more to getting great-looking legs than just ripping a blank to size. The problem you run into when cutting a leg from solid stock is drastic grain differences. Usually, you’ll get two sides with straight, even grain. But the other two sides will have mismatched grain patterns. I’ll share a method that give me reliable results every time.
One leg-making technique is to simply cut the leg from a turning blank. You can find these in many woodworking catalogs and from local hardwood lumber dealers. These blanks are usually roughsawn. But all that matters is that you can see the growth rings on the end. Before you do any cutting, the first thing you need to do is lay out the leg on the end of the blank. And for this, I make a simple hardboard template, I like to make the template a bit larger than the final size of the leg to allow for cleanup.
Laying out the shape of the leg is a simple matter of orienting the template to find the best grain pattern. What you’re looking for here is to lay out the leg so the grain runs off the edge at 45° to 60° on each face. In this orientation, the grain on the leg faces will be straight and clear.
Since the blank is rough, I make the first two cuts over at the band saw. The drawing shows the setup for making the first cut. After cleaning up the cut face on the jointer, you can repeat the process to cut an adjacent side.
Once you have two faces cut, cleaned up and square to each other, you can complete the process at the table saw. This way, you won’t need to do any further cleanup. That’s really all there is to this technique and you can be sure the legs will stand out for the right reasons.
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