When In Doubt, Add a Corbel


Rest assured, this will be my final column on our deck roof, Leigh Ann’s three new flower gardens, and the granite flagstone path we added to front of our 1972 ranch house. In truth, I thought our project was done last week when I nailed down the final green shingle, moved in some deck furniture, and toasted our latest project with a glass of wine.


But — each time I walked up the driveway and saw the roof addition from a distance, something bothered me.



A few days ago, as I was driving past a Harley Davidson shop in Lake Lure, I saw a sign out front that read, “If you have never ridden one, you won’t understand.”


The thought occurred to me that the same could be said of Arts and Crafts, in particular, of an Arts and Crafts Morris chair, the iconic symbol of the movement. And so, last weekend, as I sat in one of our Morris chairs and tried to figure out what was bothering me about the deck roof project, I reached down and found the answer.



It needed corbels.


Now, from a structural standpoint, those stout 4” x 6” posts and beams certainly did not need additional support. Once I focused my attention on each spot where a beam intersected a post, however, I knew that a curved corbel could soften that joint and transform it from rustic post-and-beam construction to a more graceful Arts and Crafts design.


My first step, then, was to simply trace one of the corbels under a Gustav Stickley armchair onto a piece of cardboard. Then I enlarged the shape of the corbel to more appropriate dimensions for my posts and beams. It took a little experimentation, cutting out a couple of templates from quarter-inch plywood, but within a few minutes I had the design I wanted. After that it was just a matter of tracing the template design onto a 4” x 6” board, cutting it out, sanding it smooth, and staining it to match the porch posts and beams.



Even though each corbel was traced from the same template, controlling the saw blade as it cut its way through each four-inch board proved a challenge. As a result, while each corbel looks similar, they are not all precisely identical.



“Does that bother you?” Leigh Ann soon asked as she sat looking up at them.


“Nope,” I replied confidently. “That’s how everyone will know they’re all handmade.”


Until next week,


“Good ideas are meant to be borrowed, great ideas to be stolen.”