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Repairing Broken Feet


One of the issues I have with the radio cabinet I'm re-finishing was that three of the feet had pieces missing - here's a typical foot showing a missing piece:

The foot is made from the base of a single stile that rises the height of the cabinet.  The original maker added pieces around the perimeter at the foot to allow them to make the foot larger - it's these pieces that have come loose, knocked off for some reason in the past.

I don't have the original missing pieces - I'll have to make them.  I'm sure the original would have been mounted in a lathe and the foot turned, but as I'm not going to disassemble the cabinet turning is not an option for me.  Looks like I'll have to do it the old fashioned way - glue a block onto the foot and form it with chisels and gouges.

I start  by planing the part of the foot I'm going to glue to with a #3 plane so it is flat and will have a glue line with no gaps, then using hot hide glue (what, you think I'd use something else?) I glue a piece of mahogany to the foot to replace the missing part:

Using hot hide glue is, in my opinion, the only choice, for two reasons.  First, it's what the original piece would have used.  Second - it's reversible.  Can you imagine if I screwed this up after epoxying a piece on here?  Or if on the veneer, someone had used contact cement?  EEEK!

Off the soapbox, once the piece is glued into place, I use a chisel to roughly size the new block to the widest circumference of the foot.

With that done, it's time to mark out the locations of the "shoulders" of the foot - I'm  using a piece of sandpaper that happened to be handy:

I've found that it's easier to use a saw to initially cut the shoulders rather than try to use chisels.  In this instance, I found a dozuki was the most appropriate saw:

Once the initial cuts for the shoulders are made, I mark out the rough circumferences of the area of the lower part of the foot - the shoulder line and the very bottom of the foot.  Then I chisel out to the shoulder line:

It's not quite as easy on the top of the foot, as access is a little tougher - the only way to do it is with a sharp chisel.  Here's where you want to make sure your chisels are SHARP!  You don't want to force them, damage will surely ensue.  Always use a carver's grip (not shown, I had to hold the camera) where (if you are right handed) you hold and push the chisel handle with your right hand, but use your left hand on top of the chisel to control it.

Next, I use a plain chisel to remove the largest part of the waste on the foot, and by doing so you can see the foot starting to take shape:

To cut the round at the bottom and top of the foot requires a gouge - I use a half-inch cabinet makers gouge, sharpened as absolutely sharp as I am capable:

Now is a good time to check the general shape of the foot.  I run my hand over and around it, looking for high spots.  If they are very high, I take the chisel or gouge to them.  Once I'm satisfied, I round the shape over using a patternmakers rasp and some wood files.

Now that the foot is the right shape, it's time to carve the "knobs" into the round.  I start by marking out their location with a pencil, making sure that the spacing roughly matches the existing.

Next is just to go for it.  It's the most nerve-wracking part of the project - all that work and you just start hacking into it.

It's important that I have a sharp chisel (again?), because I'm going to have to work against the grain on some of the feet.  Not so on this one, I have access all round, but it's still important.  I rough out the shape into the wood:

Once most of the wood is removed, I take a more cautious approach and use files and sandpaper to finish out the shape of the foot.

There it is!  Certainly not a masterpiece, but enough to match the rest of the foot.  The original carving wasn't too refined either, so I just stop when they start looking similar.

The original didn't use mahogany here - it was a lesser wood (elm, poplar, something like that) and was finished with a glaze to match the mahogany veneer.  If it had been a truly valuable piece, I would have spent more time matching the wood, but since it's not  I'll just spend some extra time matching this area out when finishing time comes.  For now, this is where I'll leave it - no sense in taking it to finish ready until I'm ready to finish the piece...  and I still have some veneer repairs to make.

I'll include a photo below of the finished foot when I have one.