Larry Ciesla

maloof-style table legs

Maloof style table legs

The late Sam Maloof was an iconic American woodworker who's work has inspired a generation of woodworkers like me.  Maloof developed an amazing "organic" look to his furniture.  The story behind these legs is that one day Sam and his wife were out for a drive after a rainstorm and Sam spied a large tree with many of its tree roots exposed because of the heavy rain. He returned to his shop and using chalk, created a concept drawing of these legs on his shop floor. 

I give all the credit for these legs to the genius of Sam Maloof.  I took his concept and modified the size and shape to fit this table. 

template for maloof legs
My standard practice is to create a full size drawing then to copy the shape, glue it to a piece of 1/2 MDF or plywood, then bandsaw out the shape, the sand and shape the shape to finesse out the final form.  Each leg is made from three pieces of Walnut.  The idea is to utilize the strength of straight grain by connecting the pieces along angled spline joints.

Slots are cut in each piece to house a hardwood spline whos grain is at 90 degrees to the joint.

Because of the difficulty clamping these, I chose liquid hide glue.  This glue has a long working time but a relatively quick tack time which allows me to rub the joint together, then simple hold it with hand pressure for a couple of minutes while the glue tacks.  After it tacks, I carefully place it on the table and allow the glue to cure for an hour or so.

After cutting a tonge on the long edge, I use the template to draw the shape then remove the waste with a bandsaw.  Later I'll use double sided tape to attach the template to the shape and use a flush trim bit on the router table to refine the final shape.

Square stock is used for the center.  Four grooves are cut on the four faces of the square stock to house the tonge of each leg.  A cove bit on the router table cuts the curved shape on each corner.  After glueup, lots of sanding refines the shape to form a continuous curve from leg to leg.

After glueup and final sanding I use boiled linseed oil to bring out the richness of the walnut.