About J. Leko

J. Leko is the principal of J. Leko Furniture Maker, LLC., where he designs and builds specially commissioned custom furniture and woodwork. J. studied woodworking with some of the world’s best craftsmen at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking where he is completing the Michael Fortune Fellowship. He has taught furniture making classes at the Jane M. Hughes Arts and Crafts Center on Redstone Arsenal, and his articles have been published in WoodTalk On-Line, and Fine Woodworking magazine.

How to Draw & Shape Louis XV Style Legs

Hand holding a Louis XV leg in front of the Oeben prototype table

Five years ago, I wrote these two posts about how I made the legs for the prototype:

At the time I drafted these, I realized my understanding on the topic of Louis XV legs was lacking. Like most woodworkers brought up in English-speaking regions, French styles and techniques are not emphasized (at all?!). I’d have plenty of time to work through the details between the prototype, and creation of the final piece, I told myself. Almost as soon as these were published, however, the feedback came;

“J., the legs are wrong…”

Yes, they were (thanks Ronaldo!).

So, I began to research the proper construction of this not-so-common leg style. I searched the web, asked colleagues, and consulted with my instructors, but no one could point me to adequate resources. (Note: I’m certain this will change with this posting. To all of you about to contact me with references, thank you in advance! Please keep your responses coming, but where have you been for the past five years!) I will take this opportunity to reiterate that I don’t speak, or read French. While I’m certain there is documentation on this subject, it has not been readily accessible to me. French-speaking friends had difficulty finding resources too. Being the case, I approached the situation from a different perspective. What I needed was a craftsman skilled in French techniques, who could speak English. My best bet, I thought, was to search for someone in Québec, Canada.

I was fortunate to make contact with Eric Thériault at École Artebois in Québec City. When we met at his shop in May, Eric was able to help me connect the disparate parts of my understanding. Prior to this, I’d made cabriole legs, and spent three years deciphering Chanson’s chapters on drawing them in the Louis XV style (Traité d’ébénisterie). Based on what Eric and I discussed, I drafted a summary of this process which was published in issue 288 of Furniture & Cabinetmaking (fc_288_22_26_louis_xv_leg.pdf). Perhaps this will save those of you interested in making these pieces significant effort!

Making without measuring

It is completely possible to make a piece of furniture without using a ruler, or tape measure! Want to learn how? Then join me at the John C. Campbell Folk School on 5-7 July for Making Without Measuring: A Dovetailed Flag Box. Using a few basic tools, I will show you how to create a full-scale drawing which we will then use throughout the building process.

The class title also mentions dovetails. Typically, we encounter dovetails when perpendicular members meet, think drawers or boxes. In the United States, the flag is folded into a triangular shape. So, how are we going to handle this? (Hint: think isosceles triangle, which is not necessarily a right-triangle.) Through a change in perspective. I will guide you through this process.

Plus, we will develop new skills and get to use some cool hand tools! Register here!

Learn Parquetry, Marquetry, & Decorative Veneering

Registration is now open for my parquetry, marquetry, and decorative veneering class at Peters Valley School of Craft. The header image shows the project for day 1: a series of Louis cubes. A staple of mid-18th century French furniture embellishment, these can either stand alone, or be incorporated into the project for day 2, a decorative veneer panel. Each project uses different production methods. So, participants will come away with a broad array of techniques to utilize in their personal work. The second half of the class focuses on marquetry portraiture. If you think you can’t draw, don’t worry. I’ll show you a tool to create the contours you’ll need from a photograph. Then use it at home to decorate your cakes!

The class runs from Friday to Tuesday, 14 to 18 June, which should minimize the number of vacation days required to take off from work. This will be a new venue for me, but the environment looks quite refreshing. I look forward to seeing you there!

Small drawer latch

The only remaining mechanism to be installed is this latch to release the small drawer. Mortised into the main box beneath the small drawer, the task is straightforward, but requires a delicate touch as this area is quite thin and unsupported.

Since the lever profile varies, let’s begin by determining the location for the bolt to protrude. The center should be sufficient for this application. Next, drill and square a hole appropriate to the bolt size. This allows installation of the latch in the correct orientation to define its outline, providing a guide.

From here, it’s simply a matter of outlining the latch, and paring away the material. It is a slow process, but affords control.

From the top-side, the result looks good, even without the latch plate. Once the drawer is installed, the latch will be inconspicuous, just as it should.

I’d like to thank Josh Huether for working with me on the small latch.

Escutcheon plates

I received an unexpected parcel in the mail last week from Keith Turner, a woodworker in British Columbia Canada. Keith was inspired to make his own table after seeing the video from the Getty Museum. He’s also been following my progress, and sent replicas of the escutcheon plates that he cast. He writes:

I do have a background in the mechanical trades and teach at a local Institute of Technology, that is why I am able to cast as we have very well equipped shops. (I used to teach sand casting). These pieces were cast using the lost wax method and I put a blog together at http://lumberjocks.com/Longcase/blog/84378  if interested.

These are one of the components that decorate the carcass side aprons.

I must admit that this is one aspect of the re-creation that I have contemplated the least. I hadn’t realized, for example, that the escutcheons are not identical! Hint: look at the bottoms of the plates.

It’ll still be a while before I have to face this aspect of the project, but Keith’s gift has given me momentary insight into it. Many thanks, Keith!