Fixing an Annoying Wobble
May 17, 2021 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have an item of wooden furniture which has four legs and a significant wobble. If I shake it, it rocks, with the back left and front right leg alternately on the ground and raised up slightly. Currently I have a prop under the back left leg, which stops the wobble, but I really need a more permanent solution. If I was to shave some wood from the base of one of the legs until the wobble stopped, which leg should I do this to? (I am really hoping to do this to only one leg if possible.)
posted by Cheerwell Maker to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
If trimming the leg might result in marred visible surfaces then I'd be inclined to shorten the back right, where damage would probably be less obvious than the front left. Alternately, trim whichever leg will result in the the top surface being closest to level.
posted by jon1270 at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Have you tried putting a felt pad under the short leg? On mobile so can’t link, but these are common at every hardware store, in varying thicknesses and diameters, with adhesive to stick to the chair leg.
posted by Sublimity at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2021 [13 favorites]

An old-time trick is to find a big enough tray (maybe even the bathtub), put enough water in that it touches all the feet, then figure out where the furniture is actually level, then mark the spots where the water level is, which will identify which leg(s) needs to be shortened.

However, something else to consider: one leg doesn't just get longer or shorter suddenly; check all the joints for looseness, it may be that the actual structure changed shape, not that a leg is the wrong length, and just needs some clamping/glue/wood peg/screw on the failing joint to put things right again.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2021 [12 favorites]

it rocks, with the back left and front right leg alternately on the ground and raised up slightly ... If I was to shave some wood from the base of one of the legs until the wobble stopped, which leg should I do this to?

As things stand now, the back right and front left legs are the ones that always touch the ground. So if you were to put a spirit level on some surface that's supposed to be horizontal, laid parallel with a diagonal line connecting the back right and front left corners, the leg you'd be best off shortening would be the one that the level shows you is holding up the higher of those corners.

If the level shows you that neither leg is higher, shorten the back right leg if you don't mind the furniture tilting backward a little, or the front left if you don't mind it tilting forward a little, or both if you do mind it tilting. Shave sparingly and re-test frequently.

Also be aware that a wobble like this can come from a floor that's uneven rather than legs that are different lengths. To find out whether this is the case, try rotating the piece and see whether the degree of wobble changes as you do. Wobble due to uneven floors is best cured with temporary packing under one of the apparently-too-short legs rather than shortening an apparently-too-long one.
posted by flabdablet at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Just wanted to second that it's a good idea to confirm that it's the furniture that's uneven and not the floor. I live in an older house, and a lot of my furniture wobbles a bit, but it's because the furniture is newer and better-made than the flooring.
posted by biogeo at 9:36 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I would try a felt pad on one of the shorter legs or there are other types of furniture feet that are like a giant thumb tack with a metal nail and a plastic head that will work, too. Some are quite tall, but I've seen ones that are thinner. You want a good idea of how much height the shortest leg needs. If you can find a washer that is the right thickness, you could add these feet to all four legs and put a washer on the shortest one before installing it.
posted by soelo at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2021

Because I'm also in the uneven floor crowd, I bought a cheap pack of wood shims at the hardware store. I have a couple pieces of furniture that I leveled with a shim, and then cut the shim down to just the part needed to level them. You could glue or tack a bit of shim in place if necessary, but gravity does the trick in my house.
posted by fedward at 10:15 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

You need a Wobble Wedge!

Your local hardware store can probably sell just one.
posted by jgirl at 11:13 AM on May 17, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers! Apparently I should have been a bit more specific -- the item is a toddler climbing triangle which was hand-made for me, but frustratingly came with the wobble, and it's becoming such a hassle to try and get it sorted out (would need to send it by post back across the country) that I'm keen to just get on and do something to fix it myself. So it's definitely the triangle and not the floor, but if the top ends up not perfectly level that doesn't matter, I just need it not to rock while my daughter climbs on it! For that reason I'm more reluctant to use solutions that involve sticking something on, as I'm worried about them getting knocked off, and also I want to be able to move it around the house and into the garden with minimal effort.
posted by Cheerwell Maker at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2021

Best answer: Last time I had to do what you need to do, I did it by gluing bits of cork tile sanded down to various thicknesses under all four legs. Cork has a tiny bit of give in it that tends to stabilize any residual wobbling under load, is wear resistant enough to survive a fair bit of being dragged about, and soft enough not to leave scratches on wooden floors if it does get dragged. Trial fit the cork feet to get the thicknesses right before gluing them in place.
posted by flabdablet at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was confused when reading "triangle", because something with 3 legs shouldn't wobble! But I see now the triangle is referring to the vertical part and there are indeed 4 corners to it. In this case, I would measure each leg and if just one is too short, shorten the other one that shares rungs with the short one. If two are short and two are long, I think you would be better off adding something to the shorter ones, but make sure it's grippy and not slippy.
posted by soelo at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2021

Best answer: Based on your update, yeah, trimming one of the non-rocking legs should work to stabilize it. Or if you're not too concerned about appearances, you could also get some wood shims, slip one under a wobbling leg to the point that it becomes stable, then trim it down and use wood glue to permanently attach it. The wood glue won't fail (be sure to clamp it on securely while it's drying though) so you won't need to worry about the attached shim coming off.
posted by biogeo at 3:49 PM on May 17, 2021

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