A router bit and two jigs yield quartersawn figure on all four sides
Synopsis: Patrick Nelson explains the unique way Stickley furniture legs are designed to show figure on all four sides. His method is slightly updated, because the shaper bits used to mill the original Stickley design are not commonly available today. He uses a lock-mounted router bit to cut the legs, and he explains how to build two jigs to cut the profiles. Drawings and photos show how the jigs work. Then he uses battens and bungee cords during glue-up to prevent screw holes and weak clamping spots.
Quartersawn oak is synonymous with Craftsman furniture. The wood’s wild ray figure is both beautiful and distinctive. Unfortunately, Mother Nature saw fit to put it only on opposing faces of a board. So on a table leg, for example, the sides adjacent to a quartersawn face should be flatsawn and without figure.
However, if you look closely at much of the furniture built by the Stickleys in the early 1900s, you’ll see what looks like a freak of nature: quartersawn figure on all four sides of square table legs (see the photo at left). This figure is the result of a unique leg design used in Stickley factories.
The Stickleys used two techniques. One was to cover the flatsawn faces with quartersawn veneer. The other technique mated four quartersawn boards with trapezoidal profiles. The base of each trapezoid was one face of the leg, and the two adjacent sides were angled at 45°. On one angled side, there was a small perpendicular notch; on the other side was a complementary tooth. Mating tooth to notch on adjacent pieces lined up the four joints perfectly.
One modern bit does the trick
The shaper bits used to mill the original Stickley design are not commonly available today, but the widely available lockmiter router bit…