Laying Up a Giant Corbel

One craftsman's suggestion for building up a huge mahogany corbel out of multiple solid wood pieces. February 8, 2008

That's right, an 8' x 6' mahogany corbel. We have been asked to build several corbels with a 4" x 6" x 8' vertical piece on the wall and a 4" x 6" x 6' top (horizontal) piece. The curved portion of the corbel that connects the bottom of the vertical and the outer end of the horizontal is 11 1/2" wide by 5" thick. This is really going to look like a substantial corbel from the side where you will see the 11 1/2" wide part. We have been bouncing around ways of building them, as the architect does not specify any particular method. Any suggestions on the fabrication?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor R:
I would do this on the CNC. Three layers of 1-1/2" mahogany could be cut into any profile and drilled with alignment dowels (stopped on the two outer layers, and through in the middle). With proper grain-matching, this would look good. You could also machine a tenon on the middle piece, and mortise it into the top and bottom, along with lag bolts from the back. The two "beams" could be either box-beam construction or solid (same layered technique). If they are box-beams, they could have mitered corners, but I think butt or rabbet joints would look fine also. In my experience, most architects and designers go for darker finishes on mahogany, so a lot of fussing on joint selection becomes moot after they put shoe-polish on it.

From contributor D:
Contributor R described the exact way I would build these. Scary!

From contributor R:
It's encouraging to know that there are other people out there who think like I do. When I design stuff, I hear a lot of "why don't we do it this way?" or, "what if we did this?" instead of "that makes sense, let's do it that way."