The paper patterns I made of the dressing table in the late eighties were showing their age, so I took the precautionary step of carefully transcribing them onto some hardboard. Once completed, I laid out the leg profiles onto some 2-3/4″ square elm stock. While the legs were still square – and easily cramped to the bench – I chopped out the various mortises and dovetail sockets.
I cut out the caprine legs on the bandsaw and then set to with a drawknife and spokeshave until all four cabriole legs were roughed out (fig. 1).
The trifid foot is an agreeable departure from the more customary round pad foot seen on cabriole legs. The front of the foot consists of a large, central toe flanked by two smaller, supplementary toes (fig. 2).
The heel of the trifid foot remains quite angular, but more acute than the leg stock’s right-angled corners. If the heel is left as a right-angle, the foot appears overly wide and clumsy when viewed approaching-, or from, the front. Making the angle more acute is a deceptive coup that enlivens the whole foot (fig. 3).
I planed up the rest of the stock for the carcase and formed the tenons on the ends of the apron before cutting the convoluted shape into its lower edge. Tenons were also formed on the back and side carcase panels and their lower edges were shaped too.
I dry-assembled the carcase and laid out the two central dovetailed drawer kickers and the other drawer guide locations. The tops of the legs will be left square in section until the carcase has been glued together so the cramps can get some purchase.
Fig. 4. The complete carcase ready for gluing together.
I like how those trifid feet look and marvel at the Elm grain. In the past I’ve mentioned how tough American Elm is to work, with its intense interlocking grain, and realize that what you’re using is different. One of the characteristics of the American Elm is its strong musty smell when cut into. Does your Elm have a noteworthy aroma?
Elms worldwide are known for their interlocking grain; hence elm was traditionally the number one choice for Windsor chair seats.
Yes, the elm has a wonderful almost cigar box fragrance.