I like old-fashioned chamfers and best of all are stopped chamfers where the chamfer is terminated short of the end of the piece.
Power routers are out of the question for me, so that leaves free-hand work with either a block plane, draw-knife, a chamfer-plane or my tool-of-choice for this job, a Stanley No: 65 chamfer-shave.
Stopped chamfers done by hand have a reputation for complication, but in reality are quite easy to do.
Small planes are fine for straight through, end-to-end, chamfers but are not an easy tool to cut a stopped chamfer with. You need to finish the chamfer cut as close as possible to the target – the front stop – it’s difficult to control the stop of each cut close to the target – the toe of the plane keeps getting in the way and there is the always-present hazard of shooting forward and damaging the edge beyond the stop that will be visible in the finished piece.
Here’s a method that I use because it’s relatively quick, once you get organised and allows the same operation to be repeated time and again; with care it is a reliable way to turn out a lot of good stopped chamfers. I used this to decorate a large Oak table, totaling about 30 stops in all.
First off, here is a selection of the tools I used.
Left to right:
- A Veritas scraper blade and a very, very stiff brush that I use to remove awkward whiskers:
- An Ashley Iles No: 52 cranked carver’s grounder: (handy, but not essential).
- 1″ chisel
- 1″ paring chisel. Bristol Design made this one.
- The Stanley 65 Chamfer shave:
- An Ironwood carver’s Mallet, made by me:
- Two Floats. The cranked one works better for this type of work:
- A Dorchester 22 point cross-cut saw.
The angle blocks the legs are sitting on were made from a few bits of scrap.
When you get your work to the stage of adding chamfers, this is one of the final operations, so the table leg being chamfered needed to be as close to its finished state as possible in other words, I had done everything to it that needed doing. When the chamfers are all done, it’s time for a going-over with the scraper, followed by assembly.
This leg is made from 4″ square Oak, 29″ in length. Two 4″ x 2″ pieces were joined together, planed flat and square. All the mortices for the aprons, stretchers etc were pre-cut. For finishing, I prefer not to use abrasives; I like my finish to be fresh from the blade The last operation, after the chamfers would be to run a smoothing plane and scraper over the surface.
It is essential to fix the work facing up: i.e. the chamfer is facing you, flat. So the first thing to do is to make a couple of V supports. These have a bench stop over the edge to line the centre of the leg with my bench dogs, which grab the ends. This arrangement is very solid and doesn’t rock about.
Next, I marked the chamfer positions: each chamfer has a two marks, the front mark which is the actual stop of the cut, and the back mark which starts the slope of the chamfer. This one terminated in a short step, about 3mm in depth.
These were marked on the table leg about 6″ down from the top and about 5″ up from the floor on my example. It’s a matter of preference where they are located.
I marked the front stop first with an engineers square …..
…..then selected a block of wood equal to the width of the slope of the chamfer, laid it on the square without moving it and marked the back. This point is where the chisel will start the slope. I then followed the mark all around the leg repeating the marks. Where you have multiple components, such as table legs, I prefer to mark one up first then use it as a rod, lining all the others up to transfer a mark from it to all the others. That way there’s minimal room for measurement error.
At this point I always mark the limit of the bed of the chamfer along the side of the leg. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, It shows me where to limit the cut. Secondly, I’m using this Veritas wheel gauge, it has a cutting action that severs any rising grain that may be torn up by the chamfer shave.
I carefully scribe both sides, coming and going, up to the stop.
There it is – all the marking and preparation done. You repeat this on all the legs, before getting down to the fun part – cutting…… coming up in part 2