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Beginner question: Splayed leg angles

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Forum topic by Leon205 posted 09-21-2018 04:30 PM 941 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Leon205

4 posts in 86 days


09-21-2018 04:30 PM

Hey everyone, I’m new to the forum and relatively new to woodworking. I’m working on a mid century nightstand with splayed legs like the one in the photo.

My question (probably a stupid one) is, how do I determine the angle to cut the bottom of the leg so that it’s flat on the floor? If the top of the leg is mitered how do I figure the angle to cut the bottom. I’ve been struggling with angles and precision cuts since I started. I’m trying to do less “rough” work and more fine woodwork but I’m drowning with all of the math :/

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


17 replies so far

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

1881 posts in 2001 days


#1 posted 09-21-2018 04:34 PM

Make a full side drawing on paper. Then take what ever angle it is and apply it to the wood.
Just like first grade no math needed.::)

-- Aj

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

15701 posts in 2821 days


#2 posted 09-21-2018 04:35 PM

If it were me…

I’d complete the build, stand the table on a dead flat surface, ensure the top is level and true, then use a 1/2” thick piece of stock as a gauge to mark the bottom of each leg for a final cut with a fine handsaw.

I hate math.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

334 posts in 843 days


#3 posted 09-21-2018 04:41 PM

Agreed with both of the above. Considering the leg is tapered, that would complicate the math further; and considering there is a compound angle (rake and splay)... no. Too much math. A paper mock-up, an Autocad mockup, and/or the final hand-cut once the table is finished – all works.
In fact, no matter how well you plan, you’re liable to need that last one anyway – so just plan on that from the start, leave an extra couple inches on the legs, and you’ll be fine.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1885 posts in 2386 days


#4 posted 09-21-2018 04:46 PM

Do what Smitty suggested, and put a level on top of the cabinet. Shim the legs to get it level in all horizontal dimensions. Then use a block of wood with a pencil firmly attached to trace the cut lines.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Leon205's profile

Leon205

4 posts in 86 days


#5 posted 09-21-2018 05:05 PM

I guess my question is, not just on this project but on any others, what’s the best method/tool/resource to figure out angles/miters/bevels? Like if the miter cut on the top of a leg is a certain angle what angle would I use for the bottom of the leg? Or the corners of a weirdly shaped table top? etc…

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shampeon

1885 posts in 2386 days


#6 posted 09-21-2018 05:30 PM

https://hiddenfortress.org/woodwork/angles.pl

Edit: this one too:
http://www.pdxtex.com/canoe/compound.htm

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

7130 posts in 1341 days


#7 posted 09-21-2018 05:51 PM

The angle at the bottom of the leg needs to be parallel to the angle at the bottom of the leg in order for the top to be level and the bottom to be flat. So the miter angle is the same on both ends.

Edit: For the record, I’d still do what Smitty et. al. suggest.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View JayT's profile

JayT

5961 posts in 2414 days


#8 posted 09-21-2018 06:26 PM


I’m trying to do less “rough” work and more fine woodwork but I’m drowning with all of the math :/

- Leon205

Easy solution, do less math. And I say that as someone who really likes math. Not trying to sound facetious, either.

The biggest jump in quality of my woodworking came when I learned to work to mark instead of measure. In other words, make sure all the parts fit together correctly, not worry about if they match up with a tick on a tape measure. That can be a bit of a mind bender from someone who is used to rough carpentry and sticking very close to plans. I have some of that background, too—it can be overcome. Find designs you like and then trust your eye and judgement to make nice looking pieces, only using measurements as a starting point. (i.e. it really doesn’t matter if the table that is supposed to be 30 inches tall is only 29-7/8 or 30-31/128)

It’s fine to want to get approximate angles for different things for perspective and ideas. (and yes, as Kenny mentions, the angle should be the same top and bottom) Trying to build that way isn’t going to get the best results, however, IMHO. Cutting to the angle shown on a miter saw is working to measure. Smitty’s method is working to mark.

For that table, I’d make the first leg, use that one to mark the others so that all are the same, regardless of the angle. Cut them out overlong and then make final cuts on the bottom when done.

Edit: and if totally unsure on a piece, make a prototype. I did that on a table a couple years ago where I was only going to have one shot at construction with the final material.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

15701 posts in 2821 days


#9 posted 09-21-2018 06:33 PM

Use one of these to duplicate the initial top mark to the bottom of each leg. Doesn’t matter what the angle is.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View JayT's profile

JayT

5961 posts in 2414 days


#10 posted 09-21-2018 06:34 PM

^ That is a very useful tool for working to mark.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Leon205's profile

Leon205

4 posts in 86 days


#11 posted 09-21-2018 06:49 PM

Is that a T-Bevel?


Use one of these to duplicate the initial top mark to the bottom of each leg. Doesn t matter what the angle is.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop


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JayT

5961 posts in 2414 days


#12 posted 09-21-2018 06:58 PM

Yes, I’ve heard them called T-bevel, adjustable bevel or sliding bevel. All the same tool.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View fuigb's profile

fuigb

524 posts in 3160 days


#13 posted 09-22-2018 12:51 AM

With legs you start at 90 and then return to 90 or as demonstrated with the bevel gauge above, repeat the angles but flip them top to bottom. 10 degree angle on the top is 80 on the bottom OR 10 but on the opposite side of the leg.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

2893 posts in 2228 days


#14 posted 09-22-2018 01:00 AM

FYI: I believe there is a metal bracket with a built in angle for mounting splayed legs, and I think Rockler carries them. That doesn’t solve your problem at the bottom, of course. If it were mine, I’d want to round the edges of the cut at the bottom, which makes the precision of the cut less critical.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View jbay's profile

jbay

2891 posts in 1102 days


#15 posted 09-22-2018 01:00 AM

Looking at your example:

If your legs are going to be splayed out at 10 degrees, (for example)
Take your “square” leg, cut 10 degree angle at the top and bottom.
Then taper the inside of the leg,
Then taper the 2 sides of the leg and keep the outside face flat.

You don’t need to mark anything,
just set your miter saw at 10 degrees, and make a stop so you cut them all the same length.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

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