To trestle or not to trestle

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Forum topic by LiveEdge posted 07-07-2016 10:21 PM 1096 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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594 posts in 1816 days

07-07-2016 10:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: table help trestle

For my next project I am planning on building a farmhouse table from reclaimed wood for the top at least. I’ve seen farmhouse tables with a trestle and I’ve seen them with just four posts. I’m curious what gets done in the post only versions to make up for the lack of stability the trestle provides? I was at first just going to build a trestle, but the kitchen table occasionally has friends eating on the ends and the trestle cross pieces would get in the way of the chair, etc.

Thoughts? I’m not a total table newbie (I built a dining table that did have a trestle, see projects), but I’m a little curious what experts think about a table with only four posts.

11 replies so far

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1098 days

#1 posted 07-07-2016 10:33 PM

four tables look good when used with reclaimed lumber. I have been using a X type design with half laps that looks good and is very rigid. trestles can get complicated and take away from the top. good luck

View LiveEdge's profile


594 posts in 1816 days

#2 posted 07-07-2016 10:46 PM

Can you link me to a picture showing what you mean?

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1098 days

#3 posted 07-08-2016 12:00 AM

here you go, this is off the interwebs.

View LiveEdge's profile


594 posts in 1816 days

#4 posted 07-08-2016 02:41 AM

Ah. Well, while that looks cool, it seems to suffer from the same problem with having people trying to sit on the sides. My current kitchen table has only four posts and when I look at it I seem to gather that the apron is what provides some racking stability for the posts.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5797 posts in 3009 days

#5 posted 07-08-2016 02:42 AM

4” wide aprons with deep mortise and tenons will be plenty strong. Cross-peg the joints if you have any structural concerns.

If you want a trestle table allow 12” or more of tabletop overhang on the ends.

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

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1116 days

#6 posted 07-08-2016 03:30 AM


I am an expert at nothing, let alone tables and based on your really nice looking trestle table and chairs, I am not sure to what extent my comments may be helpful.

I would think that a trestle design for the kitchen could still be viable assuming the table top is large enough. Reducing the width of the legs and the length of the connector rail would pull the trestle assembly away from the seating zone. The only obstruction would be the foot rail attached at the floor end of the legs to afford stability.

The obvious advantage to four legs is that the legs can be placed at the corners of the table keeping them out of the way. The main problem I see with a four legged table is table wobble. For example, with four legs unbraced near the floor, how much will the table wobble around when cutting a tough piece of steak with a butter knife? A wide apron securely joined to the legs helps a lot. Mortise and tenons joinery pinned with dowels comes to mind. But then a wide apron can be a knee-bumper when sitting down or seated at the table. Using a wide apron where the center sections of the aprons are cut away can leave the apron wide at the legs yet narrow where people sit. It seems that larger heavier legs could also help dampen any wobble.

Alternatively or in addition to the wide apron at the legs, lower leg bracing could be added. A pair of near the floor braces angled off the legs at each end of the table and joined by a stretcher connecting the angle bracing could be one approach. While this complex leg bracing could reduce table wobble, the bracing could still be in the way depending on the size of the table and the placement of the bracing.

The only other table design I can think of just now is a single pedestal table. While the pedestal can be recessed out of the way, the base of the pedestal would probably represent an obstruction.

View Woodknack's profile


12425 posts in 2576 days

#7 posted 07-08-2016 04:22 AM

Always trestle when possible. :)

-- Rick M,

View LiveEdge's profile


594 posts in 1816 days

#8 posted 07-08-2016 04:22 AM

JBrow, Thanks so much for taking the time to think out loud. These are the posts I love. I agree with everything you said. I think I may go with a wide apron. It seems to work for the cheap table I currently have (I think we bought it from Kmart 15 years ago). It also lends a simple aesthetic that works with a reclaimed wood farmhouse table. What I may wind up doing is using “real” (not reclaimed) wood for the apron because one lesson I’ve learned with other reclaimed projects is nothing will be square or tight. It’s always a fight to keep the patina vs. making cuts to square your work. Stay tuned. I’m going to head up to Salem on Saturday. The outfit I’ve bought from before apparently has some great 2×6 or 2×8 pieces with heavy circular saw marks (yummy)...

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30046 posts in 2534 days

#9 posted 07-08-2016 05:09 AM

I am a Trestle person. With 4 older brothers, I got to sit on the corner with the post.

That being said, I am working on a table with butterfly leaves that will be a 4 poster.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1116 days

#10 posted 07-08-2016 11:57 AM


I appreciate your reasoning for using what I presume to be kiln dried lumber for the apron and perhaps even the legs. But with an aged wood top I would think the apron and leg would detract from the overall aged rustic look you desire.

To solve this problem while preserving the ability to mill tight fitting joints one could try to laminate a piece of reclaimed wood over the new, but with checking and un-laminated edges, I not sure how well, if at all, this approach would work.

The alternative is to age the new wood during the finishing steps. Aging is unlikely to introduce checking but could blend the color of the apron and any other new wood parts, at least approaching that of grayed re-claimed wood. Since I am not much on finishing, I poked around the internet and found this thread on another forum…

There also seems to be a process called Eco Treatment which colors wood to a gray. Apparently there are commercial products that can be purchased to achieve the affect; Google Eco Treated Wood.

If you elect to gray the new wood, trying the various techniques on scrap wood could allow you to dial in the best look. Also, from what I read, it sounds like wood choice can have some bearing on the effectiveness of the graying method selected.

View Aidan1211's profile


198 posts in 1022 days

#11 posted 07-08-2016 01:19 PM

The biggest factors you must consider are how wide is your top is there a minimum of 19” from table edge to the lower rail, where is the rail positioned in regards to the placement of the users shins and knees. Trestle bases have been around for a long time are one of the most stable forms of table base. If my top is going to be extremely heavy I will only build using a trestle style base simply because if the table rocks the pin will drop lower and lower until the table can no longer rock lengthwise. Four legs positioned in four corners are good as well but just not as stable since you cants place rail supports lower down to assist in extra stability. That being said if you are using a lighter wood it would have little bearing on stability because the top doesn’t create a top heavy problem. As previously posted you would have to use an apron in a four leg style design which if the apron was too tall could present comfort issues as well. (Bumping knees as the user slid in) if you keep all components of the base at least 17-19” in the trestle base has little to no consequence in terms of comfort issues. In the case of a four leg design you end up with 4 legs that are in the way on each corner.

My two cents


-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

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