Friday, May 9, 2008

Sawbuck Table: Part I

In my shop, a 9/4 x 12" x 11' piece of curly cherry has been patiently waiting to become a PA German Sawbuck Table, like the one I found at the Landis Valley Museum. I was not able to photograph the original very well because it was behind glass, but the photos still came in handy. From a page in a book, I knew the height, width, and length of the original. And from the front-on shot that I took, I figured out rough dimensions for the various parts with the help of a proportion wheel.

This project involves fun little details, like sliding dovetails, tusk tenons, an angled drawer, lettercarving, turned spindles, and baroque sawbuck legs.

Trying to determine the angle of the legs was a monumental dilemma for a right-brained person who wouldn't know the Pythagorean Theorem from a Pierogie. So, here's what I did—I laid tape on the floor and marked corners of a rectangle that matched the height and width of the table (minus the table top). Then I criss-crossed two pieces of 5" wide cardboard within, but longer than, that rectangle; laid a straight edge from one top corner of the rectangle to the other top corner; and drew a line across the tops of the cardboard. Then I did the same at the bottom of the rectangle. This gave me the angles at which the legs needed to be cut. I eyeballed the baroque shape from the photos, sketched it freehand, and cut the pattern.

After all four legs were cut to length, I had to figure out where to cut the half lap. The cardboard template wasn't reliable enough for marking the critical joint. So, I clamped two legs together, marked the middle, drilled a hole through the top leg and half way through the second leg, pegged them with a dowel, and scissored them apart. Now I had to figure out how far apart to splay them so that the legs would support the table top and also rest squarely on the floor. So I clamped a straight board to my assembly table (representing the table top), slid the legs against it until both ends laid flat against the board, then slid another flat board against the opposite ends of the legs (representing the floor). This showed exactly where to mark the half laps.

There you have it—the right-brained person's guide to figuring out angles.


Anonymous said...


You figured out a nice way to do the angles - congratulations! I am sure the right-brain people will beat us left-brain people most of the time.

I love this new piece - where will it sit when finished?

Kari Hultman said...

Al, I was planning to use it as a small workbench for when I demo lettercarving. Other than that, I guess it will just sit in my shop.

Kari Hultman said...
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Unknown said...

Your ingenuity at determining the angles for the legs is inspiring! Sometimes "brute force" engineering is much quicker than doing the math and yields the same results. Great job!