Is that a “Lamb’s Tongue” or Gene Simmons in the distance

The new workbench is going a little slower than I’d like.  And one of the reasons for the delay is my decision to include some absolutely useless decoration on the base.  The decorative effect I’ve chosen to use is an old, and very traditional, edge treatment known as a stopped chamfer with a “Lambs Tongue” terminus.  You don’t have to have a fantastic imagination to understand why the terminus picked up its common name.  And you would only need to see Gene Simmons and the “KISS” gang to understand why our younger brethern (and sistern) might identify it with something seen on the concert stage.

This was a very common edge treatment for posts, beams, balusters and other architectural details.  So in times past, carpenters and joiners, alike would have been very familiar with its use.  Upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that, viewed from the side, it is simply an ogee shape that has been rotated 45°.  Some folks go to a great deal of trouble, laying out small ogee patterns on both sides of the chamfer, then shape the “tongue” with rasps and files.   Believe me, if you were a carpenter or joiner on a job site with dozens of posts and beams to complete, or a joiner with hundreds of balusters to shape, you’d take a somewhat more pragmatic approach.  You would simply mark the length of the tongue, then, with its bevel down, you’d tap a bench chisel through the cove, then the bead.  That would be that.  Practical craftsmen simply didn’t “overthink” things like this.  They were busy, trying to make a living.

Turners also employed the “Lamb’s Tongue” on pommels that would lead to a full cylinder or simply an “eased edge” shape.  It’s a wonderful little “touch” that still “holds up” and all serious woodworkers should get familiar with it.

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3 Comments on “Is that a “Lamb’s Tongue” or Gene Simmons in the distance”

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