How can I attach legs to a table?
August 13, 2009 9:10 AM   Subscribe

[CarpentryFilter]: What is the best way to (re)attach legs to a table?

I inherited a lovely old table from a friend's father, and would like to refinish it.

I started by removing the rickety pull-out leaves from table, which made the whole situation less wobbly. Following this, I removed this leaf crosspiece thing with the intention of connecting the table top directly to the legs/apron(?).

What is the best way to attach this base to this top (underside here)?

I was considering using screws and small brackets, but found some talk online about the expansion/contraction of wood not lending it to being bolted together. FWIW, the tabletop is 31 1/2" x 44 1/4" x 3/4", and the apron is 2 3/4" long, and 3/4" thick.

Additional Pictures:
Close-up of table corner
Side-view of table

I have minimal carpentry experience, and the following tools at my disposal: Power drill/screwdriver, hammer, visegrip, all manner of wrenches, and a Home Depot two blocks away.

Thanks MeFites!

(Bonus question: What kind of wood is this, anyway, and what sort of stain/finisher would you recommend?)
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Well it was a draw leaf table, where the top isn't attached for ease of pulling the leaves out from either end. If you're getting rid of the leaves quick and easy is to just use glue blocks around the edge of the apron, you can always add screws once its dried.

Looks like a walnut veneer, very sun bleached.
posted by Max Power at 9:32 AM on August 13, 2009

Remove the legs from the rectangular piece that they're attached to now (it looks like they're just joined at the corners with wing-nuts).

Attach the table to that rectangular piece from underneath with screws.

Re-attach the legs to that rectangular piece.
posted by xingcat at 9:35 AM on August 13, 2009

I have a draw leaf table where the top of the apron is drilled for pegs, the pegs are glued in to the apron, the bottom of the table is drilled as well, and the table just rests on them. It's not really 'attached' it just keeps the top from sliding around, plus the little bit of friction from the pegs holds it together a bit.

I'm having a hard time visualizing this though...without your leaves does the whole thing stack together nicely? Is the table like 2" shorter? Isn't that weird?
posted by jeb at 9:44 AM on August 13, 2009

You want some small angle brackets and some short wood screws. Attach the brackets to the top and the skirt.
posted by bricoleur at 9:45 AM on August 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your speedy replies, all.

@Jeb: The table still stacks together very nicely. Yes, the tabletop is about 1" lower, but it's definitely not weird. Quite nice, actually, as the table was just a tiny bit high for us.
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs at 9:51 AM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Your information about the contraction and expansion of wood is correct - depending on weather, seasonal changes, wood species and location, you can expect roughly 1/8″ of cross-grain expansion in every 1&prime of wood. (Continuing to absorb and exhale moisture, sawn wood grows wider and thinner over time — it doesn't grow appreciably longer.) Fixed fasteners driven into the wood inevitably flex and bind with these changes, causing damage over the long term.

The modern solution is a floating table top bracket. In your case, the base of the bracket would go into a horizontal slot cut in the sleepers in the corners of the base, or into the rails, with ½″ — ¾″ screws going vertically through the other end of the bracket into the tabletop from underneath. The only problem is making the slots: I've used a biscuit joiner, but you could use a small router or a similar tool. And there are other methods, including more traditional techniques. [PDF] (The technique I've just described is also shown in the PDF, with the bracketsreferred to as Z-brackets).

As for wood: my guess is oak… it looks open-pore enough. The finish depends on where you will be placing it, what the table will be used for, and the finish of the furniture around it (a high gloss finish wouldn't be appropriate if everything around it has a light oil coat, for example) - perhaps you could provide more information on that?
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:56 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @Bora: Thanks for such an excellent and thorough response.

I like the idea of using Z-brackets, but really would prefer not to purchase the necessary equipment to make the kerf.

The "Figure 8" fastener is appealing for its simplicity. As for creating the mortise in the top of the apron, do you think a Forstner bit in conjunction with my dinky Ryobi 9.6V drill would be up to the task?
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs at 10:41 AM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Thanks, AAAAA. :-) Oh, yes... you only need a very light touch, since the Forstner-drilled hole is merely as deep as the thickness of the figure-8 fastener + the height of the screw head. If the Ryobi comes with a bubble level it would be even easier; otherwise, you just need a careful guesstimate.

The only downside is that the figure-8 fastener isn't terribly strong mechanically, but that only matters if you're going to be moving the table frequently. If that's not the case, it's perfectly good.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2009

Response by poster: Hat's off to you, Bora.
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs at 10:56 AM on August 13, 2009

Keep in mind that the seasonal expansion and contraction is only a factor if this table top is made of "solid wood," i.e. thick slabs of tree glued together at their edges. If this is a veneered piece (impossible to say for sure from your pic) then the top will be very dimensionally stable and no fancy fasteners are needed; the glue blocks mentioned earlier would be fine. It would even be fine to simply drill holes through the skirt and screw directly up into the table top.
posted by jon1270 at 12:28 PM on August 13, 2009

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