The front and back legs are next on the agenda. As is common with good chairmakers, I select riftsawn stock to make chair legs. The riftsawn figure looks pretty much the same on all four main faces of the legs — so the wood figure is not distractingly different on adjacent faces.
The front leg is 1-3⁄4″ square for its width and thickness. Cut them exactly to length, and then move to the table saw to raise the tenon on the end. This must fit tightly in the notch you formed in the seat blanks. I set the blade on my saw to 1/4″ high and sliced the shoulders of the tenon. Following that, I used a typical tenoning jig on my saw to form the three faces of the tenon (technically, they would be called the cheeks, but that term seems a bit out of place when you are looking at the legs). When you have done this on all the legs, divide them into rights and lefts and mark where the notches (again, technically dadoes or housings) for the footrest will go. Mount a 3/4″ dado head in your table saw and make the cuts 7/16″ deep. Now taper all four sides of the legs to match the details in the Drawings. I use a shop-made tapering jig, but any method will do. When you are done with that, break the edges with a 1/4″ roundover bit in your router table. Keep it away from the shoulders of the tenons! I prefer to sand the front legs at this point in the process … it just gets the task out of the way. When you’ve carefully gone all the way up through 220-grit, you can set them aside and move on to the back legs.
The back legs are a bit more complicated, as they have a little dogleg bend in them. I make an exact template of the side profile of the back legs from 1/2″ plywood. Then I use the template to lay out the leg on oversized stock, trying to match the flow of the grain in the wood to the bend in the leg. This detail makes the leg much stronger than if the grain ran off the leg shape (in other words, it avoids “short grain” issues).
When you have marked out your legs on 1-3⁄4″ thick stock, cut them out, staying just a hair outside of the lines. A band saw will work well for this task, but I just use a good quality jigsaw to do the cutting.
Then, chuck a pattern-routing bit into your router table and use the template to perfectly shape the legs. I use short tacks to attach the template, because later the legs will be tapered and the tiny nail holes will be cut off.
An important note: don’t attempt to rout across the end grain of the legs — it presents too great a possibility for chipping and tearout (which would be a huge problem at this point in the process). After you’ve pattern routed the legs to shape, use a crosscut jig on the table saw to slice the ends of the legs to their proper angle and length.
I chose to make notches (OK, they’re dadoes) where the legs join the seat for added strength and stability. I located the back notches while the front legs were fitted into the seats.
I formed them on my table saw using my crosscut jig with a temporary fence screw in place. As with the tenons on the front legs, this is where you have to choose right and left legs, and machine them accordingly.
When that step is concluded, you need to finish tapering the back legs.
This is a multi-step process for which I use a piece of plywood with screwed-on fences and a toggle clamp to keep my fingers safe.
After the tapering is done, step back to the router table with the 1/4″ roundover bit and break the appropriate edges on the legs. Once again, after the major machining steps are done on the back legs, I get right to sanding them smooth.