Chippendale (Newport RI) Desk Legs

So the guy who hates wood is making an heirloom circa 1800 modified (one-sided) Partner Desk (John Goddard Designer). I’ve had many people asking how do I do the 4-sided, 3-tiled programming/machining on the legs, so here are (I hope) all your answers.

Research 2 months (Complete)
Leg Model/test: 2 months (Complete)
Leg Machining/final: 3-4 weeks
Remaining desk machining: 6-9 months
Cost: Wood/hardware: $1000 (est)

Programing/Machining. How: In Fusion I create 4 different Setups (on each Square Block/ centered on the dowel hole) (the middle block will be removed during the 3rd tile move, and the end blocks manually removed via a miter saw).

While not a difficult project, it’s also not a for the novice. Strict bookkeeping must be maintained due to 32 difficult programs. A good program loaded in the wrong position will scrap the leg. I still need to write the various programs for the 6 Mortices on the leg top. The other photos should answer most of your questions. Let me know if I’ve left anything out.



The Setup. The cap screw head is being used as a locating dowel pin, and the 123 block (in the back) aligns the leg 90º to my table.

Finish leg (as modeled in Fusion (Missing the 6 Mortices, which I will design and program while the legs are machining)

Material: African Mahogany.
Cost: $50 per leg (No I didn’t buy any extra material!)


Six Mortices

Test Leg (Pine/Fir) (Without the upper portion)


Philly Inspired Partner Desk (There are NO photos of a Newport inspired Desk) Differences are subtle.


I’ve been contemplating doing something like this…as soon as I learn how to model a leg from scratch. Thanks for the description and photos.

Looking forward to updates as the project progresses.


Very nice work around/work flow. Looking forward to the finished product.


They ARE Done!
Here are the numbers
37 days (26 actual machining days), 51 individual programs (x) 4 legs = 204 program runs, 127mb of program data (largest program was 8mb, smallest 3kb), 48 Setups… and NO Shapeoko or Program Errors = Miracle!

PS1: I still need to program and machine the six mortise slots in each upper leg post.

PS2: The 1.0" x 1.0" notch on the upper leg will receive a fluted 1/4 column (I really could use a 4th axis to make these but will make do with my 3 axis). You can see a sample of the 1/4 column above (finished desk photo).

Lots of sanding and hand carving to do and many coats of homemade shellac.

Now on to the other 64 parts…

Note I made: 1Right Front, 1 Left Front, 1 Right Back, and 1 Left Back.


Turned and milled Quarter Columns (they get inserted into the legs) fresh off my CNC Shapeoko Lathe:


Desk update:


Very nice work. Are you making this for your home, office or a commission?. If this is for your home is it the style of furniture you already have or is this a show piece. On another forum I had detailed a rebuild project of a lathe and some one asked why I did all that work, I answered simply “Why do men climb mountains, because they are there.” I also do segmented turnings and there are sometimes hundreds of pieces you have to keep track of. During glue up a misplaced piece can ruin a project. I appreciate the level of detail and the massive data management you had to have to get this done. Excellent work.

Home…actually for my wife’s retreat room. If you know me, you’ll know how much I dislike working with wood. This project was to test my metal craftsmanship skills to see how it translated into wood…on a challenging heirloom piece of furniture…and so far, I’m pretty pleased. It will be used as a guide (centerpiece) to decorate the rest of the room.

It is far from finished. I figure about 4 more months of CNC machining…(and a month of sanding and fine-tuning the carvings/edges)…lots and lots of edge (gadroon) molding to make…(almost 40 feet)…The center drawer is next on the long list of things to be made. It has a shit-ton of carvings, along with the two support brackets. It is VERY difficult to get these shapes correctly into CAD…but my goal is to have the Shapeoko machine (about) 95% of the center drawer artwork.

(Photo above) I had just roughly installed the four drawers, and haven’t made any adjustments…I (now) see from the photo that the upper right drawer needs a little tweak to the left about 1/16" and 1/32" up. (Yes those locks actually work)


What did you use as joinery for the drawers and the rest of the desk?

I use the Shapeoko (of course) and an 8º Dovetail Cutter:

(Questions? Ask away)


Nice! Did you used straight evenly spaced toolpaths for your dovetail cutter like a dovetail rake jig would? Did you use F360 to design your joinery or a something like tailmaker? I was wondering if I could get away with Carbide Create for this but I think it would need to handle open vectors.

First, let me explain…since I’m a trained Tool and Diemaker…and an expert CADCAM guy…I approach my wood projects like a metal project. I know my grandpa (Dziadzu) is shaking his fist at me (he was a cabinet maker/home builder), but it works for me.
Having NEVER cut a dovetail in my life…I (my brain) needed to see it modeled in Fusion. I needed to see how it looked, how it fit, clearances for the cutter, etc in CAD. Now having cut these drawers…look at the two attached photos. I first rough out the center material, then cut the angles with the dovetail. I don’t see any reason these simple cuts couldn’t be cut with Carbide Create.

One word of caution, the dovetail cutter had a tendency to pull out a little (no matter how much I tightened it). I replaced my collet and this fixed that problem


Making dovetails using Carbide Create was discussed here:

CC400 and later seems to handle open vectors well enough to allow it to work.


Hi all! Well the desk is finally finished! It took a little longer that expected, but when building a museum quality heirloom piece of furniture, time isn’t really a variable in my opinion. Shapeoko: I made 88 pieces on the Shapeoko 3 (Standard size) which means nearly every part was made/modified on the CNC, I think there are perhaps 4 pieces that were not machined on the CNC (3 dust shields, and the top of the desk (insert) that is inside the 4 edge moldings) Very few tools were used other than the Shapeoko. A Track Saw, A hand router (which is actually the Shapeoko Spindle), a belt sander, a $29 HF cordless drill, two hand planes, and a miter (chop) saw. that’s it…no planer, no table saw… Amazing what is possible when you put your mind, and heart to a project.

Relevant Notes:

Change 1.
Since the desk I am reproducing, was made in Pennsylvania, it has a flattened ball. I did change the shape of the ball in the ball and claw legs to the Newport, RI (Townsend/Goddard) style to reflect my home state. Furniture makers in RI/MA produced spherical (ball) legs whereas NY/PA craftsman produced a squatted ball (Think tomato) legs.

Change 2)
I added a dust cover under the center drawer. I don’t know/understand why the drawing only placed it under the side drawers.

There is 26 feet of Gadroon (Pronounced GA-Droon) moulding that wraps all the edges of the desk. Many of the desks that I was in museums had damage to many of the lobes from poor handling. I saw one desk on an auction web site that showed a small protective bead that was placed in front of the lobes and thought this was a smart addition that can be removed if necessary.

Change 4)
The drawers were supposed to ride on wooden slides. I hate (with a passion) this style. Wood moves too much to allow a smooth drawer action so I designed and installed hidden ball-bearing drawer slides into this desk for years of smooth drawer action. My design also can be removed and replaced with wooden slides if necessary.

Note: I have also not located another Partner Desk anywhere that uses a Single-piece Reeded Column in the upper part of the legs (as called out for in the drawing). I don’t know why but all the craftsmen who reproduce partner desks use the more common Three-piece Fluted Column insert. Perhaps it is easier to produce.

While the CNC did rough out the carving (in some places, just the outline) all carvings were performed my myself (after several practice parts in Pine, then poplar) with a set of 12 homemade gouges (including heat-treating) and ONE purchased (Swiss) Narrow 1/8 35 deg. V-gouge.

The finish is comprised of the following: Cherry stain (to add an aged antique look), followed by two coats of (1-lb) blonde shellac (Homemade from De-Waxed flakes and Denatured Alcohol), followed by 3 coats of (2-lb) blonde + Med-Brown dyed shellac (to add color and depth into the finish), followed by two coats of a clear grain sealer (top), and lastly followed by eight coats of furniture grade lacquer. Each coat was followed with a sanding of 320 grit between layers. Finally, after an 800 grit and then a 2000 grit sanding, a thick coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax was used to provide some protection and med-shine to the desk.

Only period correct steel, uncoated, flathead, slotted screws were used to assemble the desk No modern fasteners were used. Solid brass Handles and Mortise Drawer Locks are antique (period correct)…and pricy.

Wood: 100% African Mahogany, with Poplar (Drawers), and Baltic drawer (floating) drawer bottoms and dustcovers.

Side note, EVERY square inch of the desk is finished, waxed and polished (yes, even the bottom, inside the drawer compartments, drawers bottoms, etc…everywhere…perhaps a bit of overkill, but I was inspired by some Chinese furniture makers who also follow this timeconsuming but respected work ethic.

PS Yes, the desk has a secret…shhhhh.

In closing, I hope that this heirloom piece of furniture that was literally made with blood sweat and tears, gets passed on for many future generations.

The top has 15 layers of finish and due to its thickness, it looks like glass as seen in this dusty photo of the edge molding:

Where there are many photos of the desk that I love, I really like this in-process/completed photo of the corners.

The necessary Made By Plaque:

In case you like looking at its bottom:


This is hands down the most incredible thing I have seen here in a very long while (but not so surprising from one of the Shapeoko Grand Masters :slight_smile: )
Amazing work and dedication…do you have a rough estimate of the total number of hours you put into making this beauty ?


Rich, your piece is astounding (not a word I use much)!

And, I’ll bet the drawers slide like butter and fit with zero wiggle.


No…but clearly 1000s. I spent months traveling and museum hunting to gather information, so those hours should count. Started cutting Sept 18, (time off:Four (4) months, yes 4 month jury duty, and a month in Europe), finished Jan 20, so about 12 months of work + 2 months of research. (Nearly 500 CNC programs).

EDIT: PS The next project is even better …and longer (Two years for the first prototype, and an additional year for the final product…which I am NOT even sure it is possible…since it has never been done) Notice I didn’t say BIGGER…just better…yes that’s a hint…it’s small…very small…smallest ever made…IF I’m successful…


Impressive @RichCournoyer

I hope there’s more content to go with the next project. Youtube & the 'gram

I have to say this is a very impressive project, not only in how nicely it’s finished, but the sheer number of CNC programs involved, CAD/CAM… very well done.

Thanks for sharing @RichCournoyer