I Made That – #CFFC

I have been getting caught up in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this spring. This challenge runs from Tuesday to Monday. Currently Cee is in her “Fun with Earth’s Elements” and the element of the week is Wood. I had to give the prompt a closer look to confirm that the way I want to approach wood is permitted. Let’s see,

“This week our topic is celebrating Wood. Wood from in the form of trees, lumber, chopped, wood made into anything, all types of wood is allowed for this challenge. Have fun.”

It looks like I’m OK.

Many of you know that I have been making things from wood since I was a child. I started by helping my father make things from wood. Those things could be furniture, utility items like shelving, jigs and fixtures that made making other things easier, or home improvements. I still enjoy making all three.

In the early-mid 1980s, I tried to make a living making things from wood. It’s a long sad story. I was doing well, if judged by the amount of repeat business I had, but not if judged by income. I closed the shop in 1986.

When I decided to close my shop, things happened quickly. The bank wanted their money, the landlord wanted me out, my new employer wanted me to start working and we all wanted a paycheck. This caused me to abruptly end work on some projects. I was stuck with lumber, hardware, and bits of things I no longer needed to build. I sold as much lumber as I could, but there was no market for parts of projects. Including two sets of four cabriole legs that were to be part of a desk and side table.

Cabriole, or Queen Anne legs are those lovely shapely legs that give Queen Anne furniture its delicate appearance. This furniture seems to float more than it seems to be supported. The legs are not difficult to make, but the work is tedious and time-consuming. You can buy ready-made cabriole legs, but they are lathe-turned and do not adhere to the time-honored form of the hand-cut variety.

I decided to make a small table from the smaller set of legs. I think it is the nicest piece of furniture I’ve ever made. The legs are mahogany, and the top of the table is a book matched assembly of four pieces of Carpathian Elm burl veneer.

A burl (American English) or burr (British English) is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. Burl formation is typically a result of some form of stress such as an injury or a viral or fungal infection.


The legs are cut from square stock. A template is used to trace the outline of the leg onto two adjoining sides. The process requires taping the outcut from the first side back on so you can make the second cut. The result is a rough leg, albeit still in a square form. From there, a spokeshave and a pattern maker’s rasp are used to get the leg round. The key components of the finished leg are a “knee” that extends out from the top, a round portion below the knee, a foot with a toe and a heel that extend forward, and a pad beneath the foot. The pad is essential. You don’t notice the pad on a hard floor, but if the leg is resting on carpet, the pad sinks in, giving the appearance that the leg is sitting on top of the carpet.

One critical element of cabriole legs is the fact that very little of the grain runs from top to the foot since the legs include a concave curve at the top and a convex curve at the bottom. This makes the leg very weak with respect to lateral movement. This is why you should NEVER slide a piece of furniture that has cabriole legs. They can easily be broken. Whatever is supported by those legs, pick it up and carry it from place to place.

I built this table before having a phone to take a thousand in progress pictures. If you step through the gallery, you can read more about the process. Also, I illustrated the initial cut on a piece of scrap. Some of the captions are long. Click that little (i) in the circle thing.


  1. I can only gasp. What a gorgeous work of art! All those pictures of the work in progress are totally mind-boggling to me. One in particular got my attention, and that’s the photo of the rasp. I don’t see any little i’s in circles and clicking on the rasp photo does nothing. It looks like an old tool I have from my grandma’s house but I’ve never been quite sure what it was. It always looked like some sort of file to me, but it’s hard to use.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Maureen. That tool is a special kind of rasp. Rasps are like files, but where files have rows of straight continuous teeth, rasps have rows of individual teeth and they are more aggressive than files. Files can be used on wood or metal. Rasps can only be used on wood, and they are designed to remove much more material than a file. Files leave a relatively smooth surface. Rasps leave a rough surface, often with deep tears that are hard to repair.

      A Patternmaker’s rasp doesn’t have rows of teeth, rather, it has lots of small teeth in a random pattern. You can quickly shape wood with them, but they leave a nice, albeit rough surface- no tears. They are expensive. When I bought this one, it was almost three times the price of a regular rasp and 4-5x a good file. It’s actually very easy to use, but it removes wood fast, so you have to be careful (as a friend of mine loved to say) not to overshoot the runway.

      This rasp is flat on one side and rounded on the other (a half-round) and it was the only tool that would work in the convex curve near the “ankle” – a section that needed to be curve in two directions. Those two tools, the spokeshave and that rasp let you feel your progress while using them, It’s funny, but feeling the rasp going over the leg was the way I could tell the four legs were getting close to the same shape.

      Perhaps more than you wanted to know.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Actually, no, not more than I needed to know. I think it helps to explain this old tool that I have. I’d always thought it was a file but it didn’t seem to work like one. It is quite small, maybe about 8″ long and round, but one end is a square shape, like something that might work on a lock. There’s an imprint which I’ve sweated over numerous times but have never been able to read. I am very interested in the fact that you can feel the wood through the tool. Wow.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Picture me sitting here with coffee in hand and duly impressed. If there was a competition for ‘wood,’ I’d give you the blue ribbon. This is truly a beautiful project and a family heirloom. You did an amazing job, Dan, and I can only imagine you smiling when you walk by it thinking I ‘made’ that. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Judy. It does make me feel good to look at it. Of course, I know where every mistake is. One that most people will never know is that the underside of the top is also veneered. When I was sanding the top, I sanded through the veneer trying to remove what I thought was a flaw, but was really just a color change. I had to veneer the other side and start over. Depending on the material used for the substrate, it’s common to veneer the underside (to equalize temperature and moisture) but not with an expensive veneer.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You did yourself proud Dan. This table is a showpiece. I love the natural pattern in it. Your dad must burst with pride when he sees the result of what he taught you all those years ago.

    Hopefully you found the perfect place for it in your home. The Editor must be thrilled.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That picture of the table top all clamped together with the hydraulic jack in the center is quite impressive. What might I ask provided the dead weight for the jack ? And we have not even gotten to the burl. Color me impressed. As in very. A lovely piece of furniture sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know this story of using the extras when you closed shop in the mid 80’s. What a beautiful piece of furniture! I knew when the prompt was ‘wood’, you would be ready at the helm. Best to you, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a gorgeous piece of Art, Dan. Calling it “furniture” doesn’t do it justice. Gorgeous and I want to reach out and stroke that silken surface with my hand. And I adore your title “I made that.” There’s something about a tangible, three-dimensional objet – unlike pixels on a screen that disappear when power is shut down, or when the inevitable technology obsolescence strikes, you created a real piece that can endure for generations or longer. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Dan, this is my kind of table. We used to have one although it was not as nice as yours. I love the small drawers in it. Mine only had one long drawer. My jewelry cabinet has Cabriole legs. That’s too bad about your furniture business. It’s great doing something you love for a living. Your work is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cheryl. It all worked out for the best. I have a hobby, and we were able to eat ;-)

      The small drawers were a huge pain to make. The fronts of the side drawers were so small, I had to attach them to a carrier sheet in order to cut the dovetails. Because that changes the height, I had to attach everything to a carrier sheet. Still, when you make something for yourself, you don’t worry about the time.


  8. Love this post Dan! I have a high appreciation for this. I was fortunate enough to inherit a couple of pieces of my grandfathers via my dad before he passed. We have a couple of small side tables and my favorite is what my grandfather called a library table. It’s 5 feet by 20 inches and was made by a friend of my grandparents as a wedding gift. That would put it back to the teens or early 20’s from last century! Love this type of craftsmanship. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janis. When I total up the hours required to make that table, there’s practically no way I could charge enough. The craftsmen who were surviving were working our of their house (or a barn in their property) and not carrying any insurance. I wasn’t willing to take the risk, when I had to option to step back into a career in IT.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s beautiful, Dan. We have a friend back in Illinois who is a fantastic woodworker too. We suggested he might enjoy doing it after he retires from his real job. He loves doing it but mostly does it for their home. I’ve asked him for a side table, but so far he hasn’t had time. Maybe when he retires. I’d pay him for it of course. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I am looking forward to working on some projects in retirement. It’s rewarding to spend a few hours working and seeing tangible progress. The work is time consuming, but I have time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have always loved wood. I love it in its original state and in what it can become in the hands of a skilled carpenter. I have a chair that I love dearly that belong to my mother’s mother I think and the detail in it is exquisite. I will try and send you a picture, you would appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

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