Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shapely Legs Make Graceful Nightstands and a Successful Set

In the last post I talked about the stylistic and technical aspects of the bed frame. After the bed was done it was time for the nightstands. The key to the graceful look I wanted in the nightstands was the leg shape. Straight-sided trapezoidal legs might have been a good compliment to the bed, but they didn't look very feminine (left, below). The key to making them graceful, yet still related to the bed, was to use similar materials, and similar proportioning, but soften them with curved leg profiles (right, below).

And the key to successfully constructing them was proper materials. This meant making the legs out of a single piece, rather than laminating smaller pieces. So I used 12/4 (nominally 3" thick) hard maple, which allowed me to control the grain orientation as it related to the four leg faces. The way to ensure the most consistent grain on all faces is to have the end grain running as close to 45 degree as possible to all the faces. To lay this out I made a simple marking jig with an opening that was 2-3/4" square. That allowed me to optimize the grain direction.

Once the leg blanks were milled, I used a simple paper template to lay out the profile on the two outer faces.

To mill the profiled legs, I first cut the profile on one face (left, below), then taped that offcut back onto the leg (middle, below), turned it 90 degrees, and cut the adjacent profile (right, below).

You'll notice that in both of the photos above, you can see that all the joinery was cut while the leg was still square - very important!

The curved leg shape made all the difference in keeping these nightstands substantial enough to hold their own with the bed design, but still project a softer presence. To further help them relate to the bed, the drawer pulls were hand shaped from the same figured claro walnut as the head- and foot board accent squares, using similar opposing arcs to the bed.

The pièce-de-résistance that really let them stand out on their own, though, was the use of highly figured quilted maple for the tops. The tops were veneered with shop-made 1/16" veneers cut from a single billet of wood and book-matched, which made for a great effect.

When all these elements were put together, the end result came out great, and struck just the right balance.

Put it all together, add in some great Japanese prints my client got in Tokyo, and the set was a great success that I'm really happy with!