Build a Serpentine Sideboard, Part 1
Start with the curved front and you are halfway done with this Federal masterpiece
Synopsis: With its sweeping facade, this Federal sideboard is an ambitious project. The doors and drawers are curved and veneered with mahogany. The six legs—two rear corner, two front corner, and two front center—are all shaped to match the front so the serpentine curve is smooth and uninterrupted. The legs are adorned with one of the signature items of Federal-style furniture—bellflowers. Take the time to practice on each of these tricky parts and your final result will be well worth the effort.
From Fine Woodworking #222
I was inspired by a number of pieces from the Carolinas when designing this sinuous, Federal-style sideboard.
Serpentine sideboards are some of the most challenging, and consequently the most rewarding, pieces to build. The sweeping façade makes them graceful and elegant, but introduces some serious head-scratching, at least the first time around. I’ve done all the problem-solving for you, and to guide you through every key step, we are making this article a two-parter. In this half, I’ll take you through the twists and turns of making the front and show you how to add the optional Federal-style inlay, and then in Part 2 I’ll demonstrate a way to build the rest of the piece quickly and efficiently. Look for the second half in FWW #224 in two months, right after the annual Tools & Shops issue.
Everything starts with the doors: The sideboard’s two curved doors have a core of laminated bending plywood edged in solid mahogany and face-veneered with mahogany. Any time you are working with curved laminations, there may be a little variation in the sweep of the curve from one example to the next. If this happens, it is easy to tweak the curve of the front rails to match the doors, but it’s much harder to…