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Help Designing Coffee Table Legs

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Forum topic by RossCapolupo posted 01-05-2016 04:04 PM 719 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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RossCapolupo

10 posts in 339 days


01-05-2016 04:04 PM

I am fairly new to woodworking – I have created a couple projects (workbench, dining table) from plans, and have now started designing my own simple projects. I am building a coffee table for my mother, and need help with the construction of the legs. The material I am using is 3/4” reclaimed white oak flooring. She wants the legs to be 4” square and 18” tall (simplified). I want the face grain on all four sides, so to accomplish such large legs with 3/4” stock, my tentative plan is as follows: for each leg, cut four 4×18 face boards, cut the two long edges of each piece to 45 degrees, and biscuit joint all four pieces together as a hollow leg. My questions are:

Is this a legitimate means to construct the required legs from 3/4” stock?

Is the long mitered biscuit joint suitable for the intended purpose?

Will any issues arise from the legs being hollow? Should I use a filler stock? If yes, is there anything I should be aware of to reduce the odds of the filler swelling and breaking/warping the biscuit joints? Would normal 2×4 softwood be acceptable?

Thanks much for your assistance!

Ross Capolupo


14 replies so far

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Yonak

979 posts in 988 days


#1 posted 01-05-2016 04:18 PM

Ross, I’m with you up to the use of the biscuits. It could be tricky to insert the biscuits into the mitred edges .. certainly not impossible but, I believed simple glued edges would be sufficient as long as they’re true.

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RossCapolupo

10 posts in 339 days


#2 posted 01-05-2016 04:24 PM

Yonak, now that you mention it, I suppose the glue surface will be long grain to long grain… I agree with you! I was using mitered joints in an end grain application, and confused that with this application. Thanks for your help!

View Rick M's profile

Rick M

7934 posts in 1847 days


#3 posted 01-05-2016 04:35 PM

You won’t need a filler other than a plug top and bottom. Biscuits would be fine, I use them on miters. They act as splines and strengthen the joint, they also hold the miters from slipping and make clamping easier.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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pintodeluxe

4859 posts in 2280 days


#4 posted 01-05-2016 05:31 PM

I have done built-up and hollow legs many different ways. The easiest way is to glue layers of lumber together to get your required thickness. Then glue a 1/4” veneer on two sides to cover the jointline. Finally plane the veneer down to about 1/8” thick, or less. Once you ease the edges of your table legs, the jointline will disappear. The downside of course is you use up a lot of 3/4” lumber to make the legs. I usually use this technique for legs 3 inches and under, but it is a sound technique for larger legs too.

Here are some 4” bedposts I made with the laminated technique (I had some swamp oak that would have gone to waste so I used it as filler in the large legs).

Long miters are very difficult to pull off. I have done it with biscuits, and it worked fine, however expect a struggle. Miters don’t really want to be clamped, and you have to convince them otherwise. The biscuits are not really used for strength, but for alignment. The biscuits are helpful in that regard, but honestly it’s not a technique I intend to use again.

My favorite method is to use a locking miter bit on the router table. Then the miter locks together perfectly and holds together even before you add glue. Be sure to mill both sides of the board the same. Ie both sides of board “A” are milled flat on the router table. Both sides of board “B” are milled against the router fence. That way you can close the joints by clamping in only one direction. It really works great. http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/3503

More bedposts, this time with locking miters for my son’s bed.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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Rick M

7934 posts in 1847 days


#5 posted 01-05-2016 08:03 PM

Miters are easier to clamp with clamps made for miters

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View jerryminer's profile

jerryminer

528 posts in 908 days


#6 posted 01-05-2016 08:05 PM

I’ve done hollow, mitered legs and glued-up legs like pinto shows above.

An 18” leg would be simple enough to just glue 4 mitered pieces together, IMHO. I would skip the biscuits. As said above, it’s long-grain-to-long-grain, no reinforcement needed, and biscuits would complicate the assembly, IMO.

No solid fill needed, but think about the apron-to-leg joint. Are you using M&T? I would add some material inside the hollow to accept the tenon in order to get a longer tenon & more glue surface.

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RossCapolupo

10 posts in 339 days


#7 posted 01-05-2016 08:24 PM

Thanks a ton for everyone’s input.

Pinto – I appreciate the pics and in-depth response; I think I am going to give the lock miter joint a whirl, I just purchased the bit from Rockler… Probably overkill for this application, but I like to learn new techniques. I would normally laminate stock together but have not worked with veneer yet.

Jerry – you bring up a great point. The original design I created is as follows:

This design was based on solid legs, with aprons joined via M&T. However, when we went to the reclaimed lumber yard, my mom found some 4” trim board that she loved and wanted to incorporate. The result was eliminating the aprons and creating four straight legs, with the trim board wrapped around the top of each leg. I have been weighing options for attaching the legs to the top; with the top at only 1-3/8” thick, I am not sure what joint would be beefy enough to do the job. I was actually considering pocket holes on the legs, and screwing into the top – the pocket holes could then be hidden by the trim board. Thoughts?

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jerryminer

528 posts in 908 days


#8 posted 01-05-2016 08:57 PM

Lock miter is a good choice—simplifies the glue-up, as clamping is needed in only one direction. Be sure to test your set-up on scrap of the exact same thickness as your stock.

I find that leaving a slight (1/32” or so) flat at the edge of the piece makes the lock-miter joint easier to do. You can then ease the corner after glue-up, or plane the face to eliminate the “step” at the corner. YMMV

Make sure you are allowing for wood movement in your design. I don’t know what that in-fill is, but whatever it is, allow for wood movement.

I’m not a big fan of pocket-screws in furniture (although I use them all the time in cabinetry)—- but this is one case where they might work pretty well.

View Yonak's profile

Yonak

979 posts in 988 days


#9 posted 01-05-2016 10:48 PM


Lock miter is a good choice—simplifies the glue-up, as clamping is needed in only one direction.

- jerryminer

True, unless you cut the mitres as in pinto’s example .. then you will have to clamp in both directions. No big deal.

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SirIrb

1239 posts in 697 days


#10 posted 01-06-2016 12:02 AM

Bizkuts are over rated. Down with Bizkuts and the Norm they rode into town on.

You could spline the joints the full length. Make a saw kerf cut in the face of the miter and then rip a strip of wood to fit in the kerf.

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

View Rick M's profile

Rick M

7934 posts in 1847 days


#11 posted 01-06-2016 12:35 AM

Biscuits are easier and faster than ripping splines.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View oldnovice's profile (online now)

oldnovice

5733 posts in 2834 days


#12 posted 01-06-2016 12:39 AM

If you use the wood strip spline make sure you orient the grain properly otherwise the spline can split.
As an alternative, use 1/8” plywood, or whatever kerf you cut.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View jbay's profile

jbay

819 posts in 366 days


#13 posted 01-06-2016 01:28 AM

”I want the face grain on all four sides, so to accomplish such large legs with 3/4” stock, my tentative plan is as follows: for each leg, cut four 4×18 face boards, cut the two long edges of each piece to 45 degrees

Then lay all 4 pcs side by side with edges touching, put 2 or 3 rows of masking tape down each seam, turn all 4 pcs over, glue the miters, fold into a square and tape the last corner tight. Done.

-- My “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly be wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct -- (A1Jim)

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RossCapolupo

10 posts in 339 days


#14 posted 01-06-2016 11:41 AM

Thanks for all the input fellas, this is a great forum.

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