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French Feet - Part II (Long Post)

Hank Knight
Many months ago I posted about my efforts to construct French feet for the walnut slant top desk I'm building. I wondered about the process for years until Bill Tindall was kind enough to teach it to me. The construction is actually in two phases. I posted about the first phase that involved inserting a curved wedge in a deep saw kerf in the case sides to create the lateral curve of the feet. I have tried to find the post here on Wood Central, but have been unsuccessful. I'll not try to reproduce it here, but it ended with the following photo:

[url=][/url][url=]IMG_3931[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

After that phase, the feet were put on hold while I completed the interior construction of the case, including the drawer dividers, the runners, the writing surface and the case bottom. That plus various other interruptions and life events have postponed the French Foot construction for well over a year. With the Coronavirus restrictions, I've had plenty of time to return to the project. I Completed the first foot today and thought I'd post a follow-up to complete the process.

The wedging operation I described earlier and depicted in the photo provides the lateral flair for the French foot. To accomplish the front flair, a piece is glued to the front edge of the unfinished foot and shaped to match the lateral flair. First, however, the apron must be finished because the added piece abuts the apron and must be precisely fitted to provide a clean front surface.

The apron is in several parts. First, a horizontal piece with mitered ends is glued to the bottom. Next, two vertical pieces are glued to the inside edges of the panel and mitered to fit the horizontal piece. Early on, I routed mortises in the bottom inside of the side panels. The vertical pieces have a long tenon cut to fit into these mortises. I also took the precaution of adding a biscuit at the miter joint between the horizontal piece and the two vertical pieces. This structure forms the desk’s bottom apron. The biscuit and the mortise and tenon joints reinforce the apron and prevent it from being easily kicked in during everyday use. All of this is glued into place and left to cure overnight.

[url=][/url][url=]9A6CB375-AEE5-46DB-A7BD-751B87AC3832[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]05C0B3C0-C70F-4774-A6BD-6A55D0CD7866[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]E789D632-2BA2-461C-8424-F4156F01AAE2[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

When the clamps came off the next day, I traced the bottom scroll onto the apron using the BB plywood template that is seen in the previous photos. I traced it with a heavy white pencil so it would show up on the walnut and leave a wide line. I jigsawed out the pattern following the outside edge of the line. This left the cut about 1/8” to 3/16” proud of the template.

[url=][/url][url=]22672AB9-66D2-414D-AB42-396ED0A8EA53[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]6A24FF83-2AFF-4EBC-B596-63540EC479BD[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

Next, I carefully clamped the template into place and routed the final profile with a bearing guided flush trim bit to get a clean, finished edge.

[url=][/url][url=]9D6169EE-9183-4F46-88FF-EF661A751FF8[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]B1645ECC-EF91-4ED4-A1DA-FEB4ECC66873[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]07A5C15F-B461-40B2-8BDC-49FD010BED92[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]452BB52F-FCB7-462E-A35F-BCD7DCA2DF94[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

A 1/4” overlay is glued to all of the front edges of the desk. It serves two purposes. First, it hides all of the joinery for the drawer dividers, etc. In light of my sloppy work, I count this a blessing! Second, it provides the means to integrate the final applied piece that forms the frontal curve of the French foot into the rest of the structure. The overlay begins with the apron. A 1/4” thick piece, mitered at the ends, is applied to the previously completed apron structure and the apron profile is routed onto it using a bearing guided bit.

[url=][/url][url=]92117C47-5397-4DB1-B58D-105B0179A83F[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]D218384F-4FA5-49DC-ABC5-B896D439795E[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]09766EB4-4CCA-4A39-82D2-1217D091C6BE[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

Next, the foot overlay is applied. A slightly oversized board is selected and carefully four squared. The profile of the lateral foot flair is traced onto the edge of the board (I traced the profile onto a piece of 1/8” BB plywood and band sawed it for a template). Next the profile is cut on the band saw.

[url=][/url][url=]DCA4FAEE-D755-4AFF-8DBB-A6CF33374A00[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]3C72A44A-EB8A-40F3-8FB7-8786E0EA3A87[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

Next, the top corner is carefully mitered to match the apron miter. Marking the miter is tricky. The overlay board must be positioned to cover the entire apron miter and to allow enough material for the rest of the foot. This its why you need to start with an oversized board to allow some wiggle room. I shot the miters on both the apron overlay and the foot overlay on my 45 degree shooting board to make sure they fit perfectly. This joint is very obvious on the front of the finished piece, so it is important to nail the fit.

[url=][/url][url=]E295493A-91F3-4E4C-921B-E8C5DF744AC9[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

Next the shape of the foot is marked onto the overlay piece and band sawed out. When this piece is glued on, the shape of the foot will be refined using a block plane and scrapers. Consequently, cutting close to the line will save some work later. Also, the top edge will have to mate with the apron overlay and side panel edge overlays (to be applied later), so the thin end of the applied piece needs to end up at 1/4” thickness.

[url=][/url][url=]96B22171-E291-4361-91EF-025FE6DC28DA[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

The piece is glued into place with much care given to keeping the mitered edges of the apron and the overlay snugly together. Clamping this curvaceous piece proved to be a challenge. I have no particular advice except to say that the tighter I cranked down on the clamps the more the piece moved. I ended up using just enough pressure to keep it in place. I used hide glue, so I think this will be sufficient for a reasonably strong joint.

[url=][/url][url=]881D68EB-7361-41E4-905D-A8EB45A52BAE[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

Left to cure overnight, the clamps came off the next morning. Once again, some work with the flush trim bit, a block plane and scrapers finished the edge of the apron overlay and refined the foot to its completed form.

[url=][/url][url=]94CEAB5B-49C7-4F93-9FF1-252924928D76[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]931AE26C-6779-4A92-808A-3DDBA2B121EA[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

[url=][/url][url=]76BCFF65-DB6F-457A-80D9-3DD127CA7FBE[/url] by [url=]Hank Knight[/url], on Flickr

My apologies for this lengthy post, but the is a lengthy process. I hope my WoodCentral friends have found it entertaining a helpful to thous of you who, like me, have wondered how this is done. My thanks and gratitude to Bill Tindall who took the time and had the patience to teach me how to make this foot. I really appreciate his kindness and generosity.

I have one more of these to do. When I'm done, I'll post a glamor shot with the desk upright. Thanks for reading this.


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