Turn a Pad-Foot Leg
A graceful leg that's easy to make entirely on the lathe
Synopsis: Unlike its fancier cousin, the cabriole, the pad-foot leg is produced entirely on the lathe, with no bandsaw work beforehand or hand-finishing afterward. Jon Siegel demonstrates the multi-axis turning technique that produces this furniture staple. The leg is partially turned while mounted in one pair of centers, then moved to the second pair to finish.
From Fine Woodworking #203
There are many names for the furniture leg that’s less elaborate than a cabriole but more complex than a simple taper. I’ve heard it called pad foot, spoon foot, and Dutch foot. By any name, it was most popular on Queen Anne tables and lowboys. It also can complement Federal or Shaker-inspired furniture.
Unlike cabriole legs, pad-foot legs are produced entirely on the lathe, with no bandsaw work beforehand or hand-finishing afterward.
Making a pad-foot leg involves multi-axis turning—that is, using two pairs of center points. The leg is partially turned while mounted in one pair of centers, then moved to the second pair to finish.
One pair falls at the true center of each end of the leg blank. The second pair is offset in from the true centers in two directions by a fraction of an inch at the bottom of the leg, and a smaller fraction at the top. The two axes—that is, the imaginary lines connecting the centers—cross at a transition point. That’s usually at the base of the pommel, the square section that receives the mortises for a table apron or the carcase of a chest.
Accurate layout is critical: To produce these legs, you must precisely locate the two sets of center points and the transition point. That involves careful marking and a little arithmetic.
For the leg shown here, begin with 8/4 stock, milled to about 1 7⁄8…