How to Carve Furniture Legs

One of the most important parts of any furniture are its legs. They provide balance and stability to the whole structure. If you plan on making furniture by yourself at home, then you will need to carve out identical sets of legs for it. Here is a guide on how to carve furniture legs using different techniques.

There are a few ways you can go about carving furniture legs. The most common is using a wood lathe. You can also make furniture legs by carving them with hand tools or use power tools for the job. A wooden lathe can make carving wood legs incredibly easy. Carving furniture legs by hand can be a bit of a difficult task compared to using power tools.

Furniture legs can be small or big depending on the furniture they are made for. Tables usually have longer feet while drawers can have smaller ones. Though in this article we will cover how to make them in general, so you can adjust the length accordingly. 

Fundamentals of Carving Furniture Legs on Lathe

A lathe is a very useful machine when it comes to carving wood. You can make all sorts of things on a lathe, specifically if they need to be circular. If you know how to use one, making furniture legs can be exceedingly easy. They will take no time at all and you can make identical sets without issues.

Though you will need a little workaround so they are equal and identical from all angles. It will require you to make a template which you will need to closely follow throughout the process.

The first thing to do is to print out a template on a piece of paper and copy it to the wooden sheet. Use feature lines to separate and distinguish any features you want on the leg. Cut out the template on the wooden sheet using the tool of your choice minding the feature lines. Your template for creating identical sets of furniture legs is done.

Now you move to the lathe, attach the piece of wood that will become the furniture leg on the lathe. If you are new to using a lathe machine, check out our Complete Guide On Woodturning: Basic Technique, Tips, Theory, and more to get started.

Once you attach it, start carving out wood slowly using the chisels. But don’t carve out too much material, you need to keep the wood’s diameter equal to the widest part of the template.

Keep carving the wood and occasionally check if it matches the template. Don’t rush it, since it can be easy to over carve on a lathe. If you aren’t careful you might have to start off from scratch, which can waste a lot of resources and time. 

Hand Carving Furniture Legs

Hand carving large objects can take a lot of time, but the kind of detail you can give to a piece compensates for that. Furniture legs are often big, like table legs, and so hand carving them can be tough work.

For hand carving a circular table leg, you will need the help of a convex whittling knife. The convex edge allows you to get the rounded-off shape much easier.

If your furniture legs are square or rectangular, then you can just use a saw and chisels for the details. With chisels, you can get the curves in flat wood without problems.

You will need to draw out a template on the piece of wood that you want to make a leg. Use a printed piece of paper to draw the template so you can copy it onto other pieces of wood to get identical sets of furniture legs.

Once you have drawn out the design that you need for the legs on the wood, get to carving. Keep referencing the template so you don’t end up over carving. But that won’t be much trouble since you have more control when hand carving.

After  you have finished carving out the shape, you need to thoroughly sand the piece. Get rid of any crude carving marks on the furniture leg using sandpaper. Use various grits to achieve a polished look and feel.

Carving Curved Legs from Straight Wood

There are two ways you can make curved legs from straight wood. Both require band saws to work, though one method produces zero waste and you can make curved legs from one piece of wood. The other method is plain and simple and that is to carve a curved leg from a large piece of wood.

We will be using the first method to show you how to carve curved legs without wasting any wood whatsoever.

Step 1 – Gathering What You Need

This method can be applied to create curved legs of various designs. To start off you need a bandsaw on which you can cut the wood in curves with ease. The second thing you will need is tape and lastly, glue to stick it all together. Lastly, you will need sand and files, but they are for finish and polish.

Step 2 – Choosing Wood for the Legs

First up when you choose your wood for this, make sure that all sides are equal. This is very important as otherwise, you won’t get a proper curved leg out of this method.

Related article: Top 9 Woods For Carving Amateure To Pro

Step 3 – Making a Template

Take a piece of paper and draw out the template of the curved furniture leg you want. You can draw it directly on the piece of wood if symmetry does not matter, but ideally, you want them to be identical. So use a piece of paper so that you can draw the template for all the legs.

Step 4 – Drawing the Template on the Wood

Use a template on paper to draw the curve on the piece of wood. One thing to make sure of is to not touch the corners of the wood and draw the curves inside or on the center. Take one side draw the template, then draw the template again on the adjacent side of the one you drew before.

Step 5 – Cutting the Wood

Now using a bandsaw cut the template out on one side. Once the wood is cut into two pieces, tape them together, flip the wood to the adjacent side, and cut the template design again.

Step 6 – Joining the Pieces

Now you will have four pieces that you have to join together using glue. But not before you flip the two pieces of wood from one side to 180-degrees. Use clamps to tightly join these pieces. Now do the same with the remaining two pieces of wood and then join them together. Use clamps for this piece as well and leave both of them for 24-hours.

Once you have waited enough time to let the glue bond the pieces join the remaining two pieces of wood together, and you will get your curved legs. Repeat the gluing process for this and leave the piece again for enough time for the glue to do its job. 

Step 7 – Finishing Off

Now that you have your curved legs, use files if you want round edges instead of sharp corners. If not, then just use sandpaper to finish the piece. Start from a coarse grit and move your way up from there.

Here is a short video that shows what is happening in all the steps above:

FAQs About Carving Furniture Legs

How thick do the legs have to be?

The thickness of the legs depends on the weight of the furniture that it is supposed to hold. It can also be a matter of aesthetics, where people use thick or thin legs to support lighter furniture like tables.

How many legs are required for one piece of furniture?

It depends mostly on what will be most stable for the shape of furniture you are making. Some people make 3 legs for a round table since it does not have any corners. 4 legs are the most stable for square-shaped furniture.

How big do furniture legs have to be?

It depends on the type of furniture you are making. Drawers and cupboards do not need long legs, they can be pretty small, like 3-5 inches. For furniture like tables, chairs, and stands, you might need longer legs.

Are round-shaped legs difficult to carve?

If you are carving round-shaped legs on a lathe, then it will take almost no effort. If you are hand carving them, then yes it takes more time and energy. So it depends on the method you are working with.

Final Thoughts

Every structure needs a solid foundation, and furniture is not an exception to this. However, crafting furniture legs can at times be a bit tricky, and that is what most DIY enthusiasts go wrong with. So we hope after reading this guide all your confusions are now clear and you will easily be able to carve furniture legs to build a solid base for your projects. 

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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