unique joinery for table leg to top apron

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Blog entry by hobby1 posted 05-02-2013 03:04 AM 3745 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A neighbor of ours aked if I could do a commision project for him, to build a display stand, He gave some dimensions, and said it could be made from scrap lumber, he wil stain it himself.

So I went on the innernet, and looked for images of antique display stands to give me a starting point to work from.

I found this and printed it out and put it in my workfolder to take into my shop.

as I studied it, I sen it had some unusual joinery that I never seen, so I decided it would be interesting to blog this, to show some of this unique joinery and my methods to build it.

I edge joined and ripped down a 2X8 I had and then glued them together to give me blanks of 3”X 2-3/4” to be made into the legs. Then I ripped them to final square sizes of around 2-5/8”x26”
Then I processed the boards to be used for the top skirting.

In the picture it shows the skirt mitered into one side of each leg, and the miter starts close to the middle of the face of each leg. so as I was laying out the angles on my workpieces, I realized to make the miter on the middle of the leg, I could not use a 45 deg. angle miter, with the width of the skirt I was using, so because of that, I had to come up with my own angle that would work. This ended up being 28 deg., to allow the miter on the skirt to fit a miter cut in the middle face of the leg.

With my miter saw I could swing it to 28* and cut the skirting miters easily, They would sit (parrallel to the saw fence) as normal mitering operation,, however the miters on the legs, would not work, because they need to be mitered when they are in a vertical position (perpendicular to the saw fence)

So a quick jig took care of that.

I decided I wanted the skirt to be setting outside of the legs via a rabbet cut on the miter, instead of flush to the leg.
So I cut the rabbet, using my table saw and nibbled away the miter adge of the skirting.

This is the inside of the legs and skirt assembly, at the miter joints.

Now its time to dowel the joints,

Then I will insert burnt ended dowels into the holes for decorative, this means I want the dowels to be in line following parrallel to the miter of the skirt.
So some laying out and the holes placements.

I decided to drill the dowel holes straight through the legs into the end of the skirts.

Now time to seat the skirt boards in and drill through the leg holes into the skirts.

now the assembly of one side,

and as all the sides come together,

and then after some millwork on the legs and skirts boards the final assembly and glued and finished build. The top was made from several 3/4” pine boards glued up and stacked (moldings) to give a thick appearance.

It was a fun build, the challenge was coming up with the mitering method for this kind of configuration.

16 comments so far

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2484 days

#1 posted 05-02-2013 03:23 AM

That’s some damn good joint work. Thanks for documenting the process.

-- Brian Timmons -

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 05-02-2013 03:26 AM

Unique for sure.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View waho6o9's profile


8191 posts in 2576 days

#3 posted 05-02-2013 03:49 AM

Well done.

View ksSlim's profile


1276 posts in 2889 days

#4 posted 05-02-2013 04:43 AM

Your unique joinery kicks butt.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

332 posts in 2047 days

#5 posted 05-02-2013 08:35 AM

I would have avoided the joinery challenge reasoning that there’s probably a good reason we never see joinery like that. But for a “display” stand a little artistic touch like that probably helps grab the eye – invites the viewer to open his mind. Nicely done!

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3333 days

#6 posted 05-02-2013 08:43 AM

Great result! It’s always fun to take on a challenge and succeed like you did here. There is an article on a traditional Chinese 3 way miter joint in case you are interested.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2006 days

#7 posted 05-02-2013 11:15 AM

Nice joinery indeed! And I also like the arched leg support too.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1833 posts in 1969 days

#8 posted 05-02-2013 11:48 AM

Great job! That was a really interesting read. Do the joints hold much weight? That is a really nice looking table

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2359 days

#9 posted 05-02-2013 01:24 PM


Very nice!

-- Steve

View hobby1's profile


335 posts in 2297 days

#10 posted 05-02-2013 01:55 PM

Thanks everyone for the nice complements.

asked if the joints would hold much weight:
Only from my own personal opinion, I think these joints could be just as strong as a table made with the apron, (I kept on calling it the skirt, in the blog), joined with a butt joint using mortise and tenon, because the miter and the butt on both kinds of aprons, would be a good amount of surface glue on the end grains, as long as there fitted with some sort of tenon joinery.
I chose dowels, because that’s the most convenient way for me to do most of my joinery when it comes to loose tenons.
To make it strong though would be not only to rely on the joints, but corner blocks to tie everything together, whether it be miter, or butt joints, when it comes to apron to leg joinery.

Mike: I made a quick skim at that article, I am going to really read it all the way through when I get done with this post, that is some very interesting joinery, and I know it will be a real good article to read up on.

The article I’m referring to is the link that Mike posted in his reply, “3 way miter joint chinese style”

Thanks again everyone
have fun in the shop…

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3333 days

#11 posted 05-02-2013 04:45 PM

I think dowels can be a very good choice because they are really strong when used wisely and done right, especially delicate places where mortises don’t leave enough surrounding wood around the mortise.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1833 posts in 1969 days

#12 posted 05-02-2013 04:49 PM

Thanks. Great job good insights

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View hobby1's profile


335 posts in 2297 days

#13 posted 05-02-2013 08:44 PM

Your welcome kaleb,
Yes, Mike, I like using dowels, I have an old craftsman(1980)’s turret dowel jig, I always had trouble getting the boards to line up properly, trying to line up a pencil line to a ref. line on the jig, shouldn’t be all that hard, however, I was having trouble with it, it wasn’t until now (30 yrs.) later that I am getting back into woodworking, and I tried using that same dowel jig again, and ran into problems, as I looked at it to see what was causing the problem, I finally found it, every time I tighten the jig leadscrew tight to a board, the jig would lift up on an angle, the hole no longer is perpendicular, to the board edge, so after trying to fix this, I realized that the jig just isn’t accurate, because of this, I found (for me any way), the most accurate way I could drill for dowel holes and have everything line up as best I could do, using this jig.

And that secret is by having a dowel center, a proper sized brad point bit, and take the dowel jig turret off of its frame, and discard using the frame and leadscrew.

By using the turret only as a drill guide to keep the bit straight, (any kind of jig can be made to do that), then drill all my holes in the first workpeice.

Then put one dowel center in the first hole at the very end of a board, and putting both boards on a flat reference surface, take the 2 boards and touch the very ends together then slowly swing them together, with constant downward pressure, to keep the boards flat on the surface, and push them together, to make the dowel center mark.

Then using the turret stick the drill through it, and set the brad point right into the dowel center mark, drop the turett down flat an even on the board edge, then drill the coresponding hole.

And put a dowel into those holes, to establish reference and use the dowel center in the next hole and continue the same process.

Whats nice about this is no pencil marks to line up to, and the dowel centers can be used anywhere on the workpieces no need to clamp a drill guide down, the dowel center mark, and the brad point bit does all the hole locating.

Iv’e used this method quick and easy, for all kinds of joinery, not just edges only but butt joints edge to face, the middle braces on the bottom of this table stand, was done that way.

a good way to make decorative dowels (hole plugs), I took small 1/4” long dowels to plug the holes, but before that I used my tiny toy size cutoff saw, to cut the dowels, by going slow with the cut, (so as to not stall the motor) gave a nice burnt end to the dowel, this made fore a nice decorative feature, to use when plugging the holes in the top of the legs.

View TechRedneck's profile


768 posts in 2856 days

#14 posted 05-03-2013 12:13 AM

Darn it! now you made me want to try something like this.

Thanks for the post, very interesting, nice work.

-- Mike.... West Virginia. "Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.". T Carlyle

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2689 days

#15 posted 05-03-2013 01:08 AM

Very impressive solution for that tricky joint.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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