Make Your Legs Stand Out with Inlaid Feet
A touch of contrast goes a long way
Synopsis: Adding a contrasting foot to a table leg is a great way to add some pizzaz to your design. An inlaid foot leaves a much stronger leg than a foot that is added separately, and it is not hard to do. A foot with the top line parallel to the floor is the place to start. Then you can get jazzy and angle the top line of the feet.
I want a viewer’s eye to wander every inch of my furniture, right to the tip of the toes. So it makes sense to add some pizzazz there. One of my favorite ways to attract this attention is to make feet from a contrasting wood— especially if it echoes a wood used somewhere else in the piece.
An obvious way to add a foot of a different wood is to shape it from a piece of solid wood and tenon or screw it to the bottom of the leg. A far stronger method is to assemble and inlay the foot in a recess at the bottom of the leg.
A foot with the top line parallel to the floor is the place to start. Then you can get jazzy and angle the top line of the feet—a technique I show on p. 82.
Choose a wood that has a nice contrast with the leg, figured or plain. Straight grain is the easiest to work and will likely appear most like a solid-wood foot. My examples are for a tapered leg, but it’s easy to adjust the method for a leg without a taper.
Nail the design
Decide first what length foot looks best on the piece. In general, I favor longer feet, giving a leg lift and grace, much like a ballerina on pointe. This can be hard to gauge from a drawing, so i’d experiment with a full-size mockup (or the real thing). Wrap a piece of tape around the leg at what will be the top of the foot. Move the tape up and down, and if you can, get a fresh look at it the next day before you commit.
Once you have the height figured out, mark it on all four sides of the leg. With a square leg, or one that’s tapered on only two sides, you can use a combination square to mark the shoulders. But with a four-sided taper, you need to use a bevel gauge to scribe a line parallel to the floor. To set the gauge, put the blade on the bottom of the leg and bring the fence flush to the side of the leg. adjust the gauge as needed until you can scribe a line all the way around the leg.
Cut the recess
To make way for the contrasting foot, you need to cut a recess that’s about 3⁄32 in. deep. For that job I use a tablesaw. it’s worth having an extra leg for setup and test cuts. I use a wooden sacrificial fence clamped to my tablesaw fence, with the blade buried and just exposed, and make short ripcuts with the leg against the fence and table.
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