What’s your angle?

Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of staked furniture design is the idea that you somehow have to be a wizard with angles. Chris Schwarz demystifies this arcane art more adeptly in ‘The Anarchist’s Design Book’ than I could ever hope to do, so I’ll leave it to you to add that treasure to your library, but I did want to share how some of those angles work out in the real world.

I’m finally making significant progress on the staked desk for the commissioned office suite beyond the desktop and that means monster dovetails, tapered octagons and angled cylindrical mortises for those splayed legs. If you’re like me, hearing that litany of tasks is probably enough to make you go back for a second cup of coffee, but as you stand there with that second cup surveying the work before you on your bench, it all starts to make sense. The key is to look at each angle as a part of a larger process.
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I won’t rehash the process for making the tapered octagonal legs, but I will say a word about the battens into which those legs fit. They’re not nearly as flashy as the legs, but they are at least as important to the final product. There is only one angle to remember here – 16 degrees – but two ways that the angle is implemented.
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The battens themselves are fashioned as monstrous dovetails, each side tapered to 16 degrees. Chris mentions that this is a somewhat arbitrary number, but consistent with historical examples (particularly Moravian), and that’s good enough for me.

To make these tapers I marked off 16 degree angles on each end of the board (both sides) and used that to set my marking gauge which I could then run along the face of the stock to delineate the  material to be removed. I worked these tapers down with my Stanley no. 6 making each batten into a giant key that I am about to fit into the top.
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The legs are also splayed out from these battens at a resultant angle of 16 degrees. Again, I’ll lean on the ADB here, because I followed Chris’ procedure with a drill press and a “banjo” jig, allowing me to drill four (reasonably) identical mortises with a 2″ Forstner bit and a slow hand.

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The last part of the process was cutting the tenon shoulders at an angle to compliment the angle at which the leg meets the batten. I marked the tenon shoulder angle with the same trick that Chris suggests to level table and chair legs (a pencil on a block that is rotated around the leg) and followed the same procedure outlined in the last post to cut the tenon shoulders and remove the waste. The only trick was cutting the shoulders at the proper angle and trimming them accurately.
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Sixteen must be the magic number, because the end result of all of that work centered around one angle lends a certain harmony to the design. I’m excited to see this come together.

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