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Ball and Claw advice

Have just finished shaping the legs for a partner's desk and am ready to do the ball and claw feet.  I've done a couple of sets of these before but the feet on this desk are somewhat different.  Attached are  two files:  the design of the foot from the plans I am working from, and a possible layout of the foot.

From the plans it appears that the ball is slightly (about an eight inch) offset from the front toe.  It also appears that the ball has a diameter of about 2-1/2 inches and the diameter where it his the floor is about 2-1/4 inches.  The leg blank is 3-1/2 inches square.  Taking these assumptions into consideration I developed the layout for the bottom of the blank to carve to.

Advice please:  Are my assumptions about the location and size of the ball reasonable from the design?  Will the layout accomplish the design? The legs for the desk are fairly heavy, as is appropriate for a project of this size but scaling the ball and claw to the size of the blank would, in my opinion, produce a foot with a ball that is too large.

The ball and claw feet I have done in the past have been on smaller blanks - 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 square - and the layout has simply been centered on the bottom of the blank.  Mary's video lessons coincided perfectly for these feet.

Uploaded files:


By looking at your pdf layout, I’d say your proportions for the layout are done well. I see what you mean by being off-center, but I wouldn’t think that takes away from the design at all.

As for having a larger ball and claw, as long as they match the leg size, I can’t see why it would be wrong to go with the larger foot. If the entire table is larger, I don’t see that you need to scale down the foot to a more often seen size...if that makes any sense? I’ve seen dining room tables with up to a 4” ball and matching claw...it went well with the large table.



Thanks for your feedback.  Looking at a photo of the piece I am replicating, the size seems appropriate.  The front talon is very prominent on this foot unlike others I have done — big bird foot, smaller ball.

Before chipping away (literally) on a $200 slab of mahogany one wants to be sure!  I’ll upload a photo when I’m finished.

I see what you mean by the knuckle on the front toe being larger. I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out, which could be a good thing! Best part, you can carve as-is, and if it doesn’t look right to you, it can always be made smaller. Easy to take away wood...not so to put it back!

Looking forward to seeing your progress...

Might I suggest making one in clay first? This will get the proportions correct, and you can view it from all directions to see if it sits well with your own preference. Your design definitely has a more pronounced front talon, along with larger side ones. They extend from the ball quite a bit farther than the Philadelphia style that I show on my lesson. Your design is actually more realistic to an eagle claw than the stylized ball and claw feet that are typically carved. I think it will look awesome, and look forward to seeing it finished.

Scott Taylor has reacted to this post.
Scott Taylor

It’s been a long slog.  In retrospect I probably should have made the ball larger, but, as you all know, once the wood comes off it doesn’t go back.

when I got the feet to the point of defined talons It was obvious that I needed to undercut the lower sections to define some kind of roundish bone structure.  It looked like a duck clutching a ball.  They were entirely too oblong.  In the process my gouge went right through the web.  Oops.  Along the way, though I had toyed with the idea of separating the lower talon sections from the ball but didn’t know quite how to approach the web.  As fate would have it - serendipidously - my error forced me to work it out.   I did the center talon but hadn’t planned on doing the side talons.  Until I looked at it, that is.  The three major talons had to be alike.  The photos show the result.

There’s still fine tuning and cleanup to do, but three of the four are in this state.  My back gave out before finishing the fourth.  Manana.  A little work with some - cover your ears Mary - sandpaper and I think they will be a great detail on the desk I’m building.

Uploaded files:
  • B0C8C83A-DE49-4EB7-B4A9-3B1351671B2C.jpeg
  • 80A2BE66-B654-4D87-812D-05675EDFF10D.jpeg
Greg Howlett has reacted to this post.
Greg Howlett

That is a very "exotic" ball and claw! And I think the open web/talon is a great look. I bet the Newport ball and claws with all the open talons and claws were probably carved exactly the same way you did yours - oops, carved too much away, oops, lets see what happens when I do this. And a new design is developed! It's fun discovering isn't it? And if you don't get too locked in with a specific design, you can get some exciting results. Congratulations!

William Burlingame has reacted to this post.
William Burlingame