Friday, September 23, 2011

More Quadrilinear Boffinry

Well, after my long summer hiatus, the last thing I wanted to do was re-emerge with a Don Quixote-esque post about chasing the perfect quadrilinear leg post, but here goes.  As you probably know, the quadrilinear leg post is an identifying feature of high-quality arts-and-crafts furniture.  By careful construction, it allows you to create a post (in this case 2.5" by 2.5") that displays quartersawn grain on all four faces.

Every iteration of the Stickley factory has used this technique, and even low-end manufacturers tried to mimic the effect with a faux finish.  If this type of discussion floats your boat, I encourage you to check out the excellent book, Arts & Crafts Furniture: From Classic to Contemporary by Kevin Rodel and Jonathan Binzen.  It is equally appropriate in the workshop or on the coffee table.

In the past, I've used the standard whacking big locking mitre bit in the router table with less than satisfactory results.  Yes, I have a big 3 1/4 hp router and a nice Jess-Em table, but the whole process still scares the bejesuz out of me -- one slip and you've ruined a nice bit of timber.  Here's one I made earlier:

It was so good that I cut it up and used it to support a shelf.

I've also just mitered the four long edges, glued the faces, and using strapping tape, rolled it up in a bundle.  The results are nearly as good as the lock mitre bit, and slightly less nerve-wracking.  You do, however, often end up with one less-than-perfect joint.  I can hide it in construction, but I'm not happy about it.

So, with the price of  4/4 quartersawn white oak at $7.50 per bf around my neck of the woods, I decided to give modified veneering a shot.  Veneering has many things going for it.  It cuts your timber costs in half, and allows you to select some particularly tasty figure for the post you are making.  The drawback, of course, is that making your own veneer requires some (expensive) machines and can be tedious.

I started by making two 60" cores of 3/4" plywood.  As I wanted to net out around 2.5". I cut the width to about 2 5/16".  this allows me about 3/32" for the veneer on each side.  I stacked three of these core pieces of approx. 3/4" plywood to a net something less than this (plywood being less than its stated dimension.)  I would compensate for this with one slightly thicker veneer on that side.

I selected some very nice pieces of QSWO that were 2.75" by 62" -- from different boards but with similar figure.  This was facilitated by the fact that most of my stock was around 5" wide, and I needed to the leftover 2" pieces to make corbels.  I cut 1/4" veneers on the bandsaw with some great blades I recently purchased from Woodcraft Bands.  He puts together blades that resaw as well as that big name brand, but at a significant discount.  It is important that between each slice you pass the stock across the joiner to have one flat face.  When complete, you will have eight slices.

Now, I know that 1/4" stock isn't really veneer, and that it is at risk of seasonal movement.  At the heart of this method is reducing the thickness of each piece while it is attached to the core, requiring you to always have a dead flat surface to reference in the planer -- so sequencing is important.

1.  Glue up one veneer (flat side against the core) to the core with the edges of the veneer standing proud.  I do two legs at once and clamp.

2.  Once cured, run this through the planer (veneer side up) to get the veneer to about 3/16". Repeat this process on the opposite side.

3.  Now trim the overlapping veneer edges flush on the router table with a spiral flush trimming bit.

4.  Now repeat the glue up, in a similar fashion, on the remaining faces, cure and trim the edges on the table.

5. Finally, and with a great deal of attention, run the completed posts through the planer to achieve uniform thickness.

There is no doubt that this is a fiddley process, and you can argue that the money you save on stock you spend on shop time -- but I'm really happy with the results.  In addition, because there a number of steps that require cure time, you can fit it between other tasks.  The other issue is deciding how thin you dare go with the veneer, and how much you reckon QSWO is going to move.  I'm comfortable with 3/32" -- chunky enough to withstand wear, but not thick enough to overpower the glue with movement.  So, let me know what you think.  Thanks!

Next, I'll construct the Prairie Chair.


  1. Good to see you on the web again. I bought a Popular Woodworking book on Arts and Crafts furniture while at the beach and it showed a process like yours, but a glue up of solid stock and then veneer to cover the sides. I wondered then about movement.

    I hope to tackle my first Arts and Crafts style project soon. Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Yeah, I've thought about a solid stock glue up, but shied away from it for the same reason. I might do one small solid piece sandwiched between two plywood pieces to get the exact stacked thickness. The method you mention is, BTW, historically accurate -- although I did read that it has a high failure rate over time. But who knows how those pieces were abused in their lifetime.

    Are you able to source decent QSWO down south?

  3. I am sure I could find some, but getting the quantity needed is the problem - my local Woodcraft has some, but usually not much. I would probably get it online.

  4. Nice to see you back online. Look forward to the build progress