Sometimes, there is no easy way

Ever try to figure something out that should be easy, but for some reason you just can’t come up with what you’re looking for no matter how hard you try? Yeah, me too.

My current project is a reproduction 19th-century stool. The easy part is that I have an original; it’s in poor shape, but I can use each of the components to make exact duplicates. I’d like to add a detail that, while not on my original, I’ve seen on dozens of stools of the period in Library of Congress photos. (A wonderful source for woodworkers, by the way; I’ll have to do a blog on that someday.)

The detail is a rosette pattern cut into the ends of the two seat stretchers, which are essentially 1-1/8” dowels. Yeah, I know I could just get a rosette cutter for my drill press, then clamp that dowel vertically underneath the cutter and I’d have it done in a matter of seconds.

But those cutters are way, way too expensive. Now, I can usually justify the cost of anything related to creating something in the shop, much to my wife’s (and my bank account’s) distress. But this is part of a book project, and I can’t recommend that the reader just run out and buy a cutting bit they’ll use only once that costs more than a decent jigsaw.

I could also construct a jig to cut those rosettes, but again, I want to keep this simple – this project is intended for beginning woodworkers, and I want to avoid adding complications to what otherwise is an easy project. To make a long story short, no matter how much I thought on it I just couldn’t come up with anything. So instead of finding an easy way to accomplish the task, I’ll take the easy way out.

Those stools were made with the stretcher ends typically done one of three ways. The one I wanted to do was the most elaborate, but they were also made absolutely plain; that is, a large portion of them in the photographic record and museum displays (and on my original, for that matter) have those stretchers simply cut off at a 90-degree angle.

But there was a middle ground between those two, with the stretcher ends being gently rounded. The look isn’t as elaborate as those rosettes, but it’s much nicer than the plain cut-off stretchers. I’m disappointed I couldn’t come up with an easy way to do those rosettes, but in this case I think the easiest way is to go with the “Goldilocks” method – not too fancy, not too plain.

This way will be just right.

A.J.

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