Monday, June 2, 2008

Arts and Crafts Details: Corbels

This is the first in a series of posts on details of Arts and Crafts Furniture. Today I'm going to focus on the Corbel, its a curved wooden support that goes between the leg and the arm of a chair of sofa.
According to Wikipedia the word "corbel" comes from Old French and derives from the Latin corbellus, a diminutive of corvus (a raven) which refers to the beak-like appearance. Corbel is defined as a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. For us, its a decorative addition that ties the arm to the leg.
Gustav Stickley used a small corbel on his morris chairs while his brother's designs used a more elongated corbel as seen here in my reproduction of their Prairie Style Sofa and also below in my L&JG Stickley Paddle arm Morris chair.
There are several ways that you could attach the corbels to your chair/sofa. You could drill through the corbel and screw it into the leg and plug the holes. You could use dowels to attach it. You could glue it directly to the leg/arm like I did on the Morris chair, since its a long grain to long grain match, careful aligning and clamping works well. My favorite method, which I used on the sofa, is to cut a dado down the leg with a router and a guide, and cut a long tongue on the back of the corbel. This method aligns the corbel correctly every time and provides for plenty of glue surfaces.
Once you decide on the size and shape of your corbel make a pattern out of plywood or MDF, trace the shape out on some nicely figured quartersawn white oak, cut on the band saw proud of the line. Attach the pattern to the stock using double sided tape and using a pattern routing bit run them on your router table. A little finish sanding and carefully glue the corbel in place. Nicely shaped and proportioned corbels will add a nice detail to your project.
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." - Henry David Thoreau

1 comment:

Margaret said...

How interesting! I had no idea that piece even had a name. Great stuff!