How to re-attach a table leg?
July 3, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

How can a carpentry klutz like me re-attach a table leg?

The table had a "skirt" with a missing drawer, so I removed it. Turns out of the legs depended on the skirt for its attachment to the table.

Long story short: I now have a free-standing table leg and an otherwise gorgeous three-legged table. What's the easiest way to attach it?

The table is solid wood and the bottom is flat. I don't have fancy tools but could conceivably borrow some.
posted by limon to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
The easiest way is to glue it on. If you use a very strong glue (goop, or gorilla glue) the result will be reasonably durable, although if you subject it to abnormal stress the leg could still come off. A stronger attachment would require screwing the leg to the top, but that is much more difficult to do. You would probably have to drive a large screw through the top into the leg, then countersink the screw so that the head is below the level of the top, and then fill it in with wood putty, sand it down, and possibly stain it as well so that the color matches - it's a lot of trouble.
posted by grizzled at 11:23 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

All of this presupposes a square leg.

Screw a random block of wood to the underside of the table and then screw the leg to the block. Kind of like this. Wood gluing before screwing would be nice; predrilling the holes smaller than the diameter of your screws is pretty much necessary. Two screws would be needed - picture them being placed like two dots on the side of a die.

You can use two blocks on the two inside sides of the leg for more security. In this case, I'd do one screw per side and make sure they don't intersect inside the leg!
posted by codswallop at 11:25 AM on July 3, 2011

Put the apron back on.
posted by Max Power at 11:29 AM on July 3, 2011

The easiest method is probably to use a dowel. Go to the hardware store and get a wooden dowel 1/3-1/2 as thick as the table leg, and some good wood glue. If you don't have any already, get or borrow some clamps for setting. You're also going to need an electric hand drill and a bit that drills a hole the same width as the dowel.

Drill a hole in, but not through, the bottom of the table where the leg goes. Anywhere from 1/2-3/4 through the table plank, depending on its thickness.

Drill a corresponding hole of the same dimensions into the top of the table leg.

Cut a dowel the combined length of the two holes. Test it by inserting one end of the dowel into the hole in the table leg while the other goes in the hole in the table. Adjust the length of the dowel as necessary.

Once you've ensured there's a nice fit, put a little wood glue in the hole in the table, put the dowel in, put some wood glue in the hole in the leg, and push it onto the dowel. Use a damp rag to wash off any spillover. Clamp the leg in place, and let the glue dry overnight. If you're having trouble finding a way to set the clamp, you can alternately stand the table up and place a weight directly over the leg -- don't put anything else on the table, and make sure it doesn't get bumped.

When it dries, you should have a strong permanent joint.
posted by patnasty at 11:39 AM on July 3, 2011

I have been doing carpentry and repairs like this for a long time. I can have my fiance tell you about some antiques I've refinished for her family. I'm about 10 miles west of Manhattan in North Jersey, if you want to drop it off with me, me-mail me and I will do it for the cost of parts. That is assuming a New Yorker wants to come to the barren wasteland that is North Jersey.
posted by Nackt at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a variety of different techniques depending on the wood and the type of duty the table is subjected to. I wonder about only one of the legs depending on the skirt; normally the same attachment would be used for at least the other leg on the same side as the skirt. How is it secured? If you can't see any screws or braces, it will be a dowel most likely as described, and doing that is probably the best choice. I'm just concerned that you may have a second leg that has been weakened by the skirt removal, and you should make sure that it's held in place, preferably by something as strong as the legs on the non-skirt side.

Other options, of course, include replacing the skirt and using it without a drawer (if refinished it can look quite handsome); building a new drawer and finishing it to match; or building some sort of storage/shelf/tray inside so that you can use the drawer opening for something appropriate, e.g cocktail napkins if it's in the living room.

I have a family heirloom side table that was made from a new top and four recycled staircase banisters, which were too narrow at the top for a really sturdy connection. As a result, it's very fragile and I don't trust it for much, but since it was made by an ancestor I want to keep it. Just be careful that you end up with a table you can trust.
posted by dhartung at 12:36 PM on July 3, 2011

I've used a KREG pocket-hole jig for a few similar tasks. Have a flick through their website and see if you think it would be worth it, the entry level one should be fine for your task.
posted by Static Vagabond at 5:23 AM on July 4, 2011

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