When is a table top too heavy for just four legs?

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Forum topic by Shubha posted 05-26-2015 10:22 PM 1448 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1337 days

05-26-2015 10:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: table furniture

I’m making a coffee table out of an old bowling alley lane and it’s 4’x18”. I wish I knew exactly what it weighed but it is heavy. It’s too heavy for me to move without dragging it – although I’m not very strong. My partner can move it down the stairs with a lot of effort.

So my question is that I wanted to use tube legs or hairpin legs but it would leave the entire centre of the table open – and it is heavy. Should I have additional legs in the middle? Or should I trust the wood?

I do of course have horizontal bars to keep the wood from sagging towards the middle horizontally (?) but I’m worried it will sag towards the middle length-wise.

13 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


5155 posts in 2592 days

#1 posted 05-26-2015 11:09 PM

It depends on the thickness. Greater thickness equals less sag. Four ft is not that long, I think 1” thick should be sufficient.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Ocelot's profile


2127 posts in 2879 days

#2 posted 05-26-2015 11:15 PM

How thick is the table top? My guess would be that it’s at least 3” thick. If that’s the case, I don’t think sag is likely to be an issue. A bigger issue, I would think, is insuring that the legs (and their mounting) are strong enough to endure the side loads while the table is being dragged.


View Pezking7p's profile


3230 posts in 1892 days

#3 posted 05-26-2015 11:16 PM

im not sure what you mean by “horizontal” bars but you should have a “bar” on all four sides. This is called an apron and it adds a ton of structural support to the table top.

Those legs you listed will Probably hold up a car. They’re just fine.

-- -Dan

View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1337 days

#4 posted 05-26-2015 11:59 PM

So I’m not doing an apron because that seems way too complicated for me! Unless it isn’t and I’m just worried about nothing?

The “horizontal” bars I mean are the ones going across the bottom of the table like this which are exclusive to bowling alley lanes since the pieces aren’t stuck together.

But thank you for the advice on the legs! That’s reassuring to hear.

View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1337 days

#5 posted 05-27-2015 12:00 AM

And yes the top is about 2.5” thick so that seems good. That’s a really good point about the legs being strong enough when being dragged. I hadn’t thought of that. So far I plan to put some soft pads under the legs so there isn’t too much friction when it drags (mostly for my floor’s sake). And a woodworking hobbyist-friend said to put an extra piece of wood between the table and the leg so that I can use really long nails. Would that help with that issue?

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2931 days

#6 posted 05-27-2015 12:26 AM

I would not expect any sag from that top! Use screws rather than nails to attach legs and predrill the holes.

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

View Woodknack's profile


12469 posts in 2621 days

#7 posted 05-28-2015 05:26 AM

Nails are a no-go, traditional screws are iffy; use lag bolts or structural screws. Without an apron you want a very strong connection between legs and top.

-- Rick M,

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1471 days

#8 posted 05-28-2015 11:40 AM

use bowling pins for legs.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View PaulHWood's profile


445 posts in 2493 days

#9 posted 05-28-2015 01:30 PM

With what you have proposed, you can likely land an aircraft on it. 1×2 tube even thin gauge which your photo does not look like can support thousands of pounds, they will slip out and pull out any connectors before they fail. It is good that the top plate has holes staggered on either side. I would also suggest lags, but be sure to follow appropriate hole sizes for lags, most people do not know that they have very specific requirements for hole sizes.

Likewise, the 2 1/2” top can be danced on.

Good Luck

-- -Paul, South Carolina Structural Engineer by trade, Crappy Woodworker by choice

View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1337 days

#10 posted 05-28-2015 04:46 PM

You’re all so great and helpful! I don’t know what I would do without this forum… I did mean screws and not nails but hadn’t heard of lag bolts or structural screws. Based on that link, I’ll go with structural screws since they seem easier to use. Thank you!

View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1337 days

#11 posted 05-28-2015 04:48 PM

Also I realize that photo makes it look like that’s a photo of MY table top which it isn’t. That’s a photo of someone who knew how to use a router. Mine is not like that and my horizontal bars are flat (not square) but to compensate for the fact that my bars are less thick I am attaching them to the table at a slight angle. I have no idea if that helps but my theory is it is harder for the metal to bend that way. In any case, the wood I am using and the concept of the horizontal bars is the same as the photo I attached. Sometime soon I’ll make a blogpost about it!

View PaulHWood's profile


445 posts in 2493 days

#12 posted 05-30-2015 02:10 PM

Choice of connectors will really depend on what hole size is on your table leg. Lags are just screws with a bolt head really.

-- -Paul, South Carolina Structural Engineer by trade, Crappy Woodworker by choice

View MNclone's profile


192 posts in 1825 days

#13 posted 05-30-2015 02:13 PM

I want some bowling alley lane!

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