My Store:
Change Store
My Store:
Change Store
  • How to: Make Cabriole Legs

How to: Make Cabriole Legs

Making Cabriole Legs

Steve Hay is a furniture maker from Jimboomba in Queensland. Steve has recently been commissioned to front a new woodworking show entitled “Woodworking Master Class” to be viewed on 31 Digital, Brisbane in October 2013 and simulcast on their website It’s a great opportunity for Steve to share his skills with a wider audience. Here he works through the process of making a traditional Cabriole leg.

The Cabriole leg has been around since the 18th century. It can be used in its most basic form, with deep curves or adorned with carvings in the knee and or foot. It can add style and grace to an otherwise plain piece of furniture. I made my first cabriole leg towards the end of the last century and I was hooked, if you are like me, once you’ve made one you will look for any opportunity to make more.

Key Elements to Consider Before you Begin:

  1. Start with precise square stock and free from knots and pith.
  2. Keep the pieces of the first side cuts on the bandsaw attached to the stock.
  3. Have sharp and tuned Spokeshaves.
  4. If you don’t have access to a borer, drill wing dowel holes in the leg and wings before cutting the stock to shape.
  5. When drilling centre dowel hole in wing only go half the depth of the other holes to prevent hole showing through finished leg.
  6. Make sure both wings line up after they have been fitted.

Step 1

Draw the design (the longer the leg the easier it is) transfer it onto some 3mm or 4mm ply. Cut out the plywood shape and finish sand the edges.

Step 2

Select some clear 3 x 3 lengths of timber 600mm or 100mm longer than the leg design. Machine square. If it’s not perfectly square you will have problems later on.

Step 3

Use the template to draw leg profile on to 2 adjoining sides of your stock, making sure that they line up perfectly.

Step 4

his can be cut out with a coping saw but a bandsaw is a lot quicker. I use a 3/8” blade. Cut down to the line but do not completely separate the waste. Once all on side has been cut in this fashion, rotate stock 90 degrees and repeat procedure. This time cutting the waste completely away.

Then remove all other waste that is just hanging on. Keep waste from the knee cut.


Step 5

Use a dark pencil and scribe a line down the centre of each side of the leg. On the bottom of the foot draw 2 diagonals and using a compass scribe a circle that touches all 4 sides.

Step 6

Place leg into an F clamp or sash clamp using a flat face spokeshave and run over any flat spots left from the bandsaw step. Redraw any lines that have been removed.

Round over the foot to match the circle and round over square section on the leg using the pencil lines as the highest reference point .


Step 7

Use leftover block from leg and transfer the wing pattern onto it fitting 2 designs on the block and cut out on bandsaw.

Step 8

Make a dowelling template and transfer marks to leg and wing. Use a doweling table to drill dowel holes.


Step 9

Fit and glue one wing, being sure that it is square on 2 axes, when dry re-drill the dowel hole that has become blocked. Fit and glue other wing and remove excess waste on a bandsaw. Keep off cuts.

Step 10

Using a square on the top of the leg draw a right angle line and extend in 90 degrees to the full length of the wings. Use these marks as reference points and plane wings to the line while following the contour of the legs knee. Sand curvature of leg and wing assembly on a drum sander or the end roller of a bed sander.


Step 11

Use spokeshaves (flat and rounded) and rasps to complete the shaping of the entire leg, then follow with sanding starting with 100 grit through to 240. Flatten top of leg and wings so it will fit flush under the apron of the piece it is to be fitted to.

The aim of the finished leg is to have smooth flowing lines that gently change direction and give a feeling of fluid motion from the knee to the toe.