Why are table legs mortise and tennoned into the apron?

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Forum topic by millssnell posted 10-14-2011 02:45 AM 7776 views 2 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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46 posts in 2798 days

10-14-2011 02:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question pine joining


I am stumped on what to do on this one! A customer asked for a kitchen table and specifically said that they wanted to legs to be attached inside the apron, rather than into the apron itself.

Why are table legs almost always mortise and tennoned as the corner of the apron? Is it going to look funny for me to build the table the way the customer is asking?

Table is 54” long and 36” wide. Thicker top pine table with 3×3 legs.

I’d love any feedback, i.e. help me think…

11 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1735 posts in 2835 days

#1 posted 10-14-2011 03:17 AM

Aprons joined to,(set into) the leg lends itself for more racking resistance. But I would find out exactly what they mean by inside the apron. May simply be that they are unable to describre what they mean. One could say that with a traditional mating of leg to apron that the bulk of the leg is insede the apron perimater. Good luck with this one.

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Rick Dennington

5911 posts in 3221 days

#2 posted 10-14-2011 03:55 AM


-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Alongiron's profile


647 posts in 2719 days

#3 posted 10-14-2011 04:20 AM

I think you should make a mock up for your customer showing both options. This way there will be no surprises. If they want it made so they are set to the inside; so be it…it is there table!

-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View danr's profile


154 posts in 3211 days

#4 posted 10-14-2011 04:31 AM

I have made tables in the way that I believe your customer is asking for.

The apron is simply a rectangle (open box) with butt joints. I like to leave the short or long sides of the apron (take your pick) running a bit longer to prodrude past the butt joint slightly. Then chamfer or round over the protruding part for a nice clean look.

When I have done t this way I generally screw the apron to the top of the leg and I have also set the apron into a shallow rabbit around the top of the leg (for even more support). This looks pretty good in my opinion and is less labor intensive then the traditional motise and tennon.

Mock it up and take a look.

Good luck.

View MNgary's profile


301 posts in 2443 days

#5 posted 10-14-2011 04:40 AM

One option: Use thick enough stock for the legs so you can recess the apron into the top of the legs and have the legs (below the apron) meet the outside edge of the apron. This would allow having an apron that continues around/over the legs.

Another option: design the table with a hidden structural ‘apron’ that is tenoned into the legs and then install a decorative apron that covers the legs and hidden structural apron.

I’m certain there are many other options, these are just what immediately comes to mind.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3095 days

#6 posted 10-14-2011 04:54 AM

Kitchen tables are probably subjected to more racking stresses than any other table in a home. Dining room tables would run a close second, but only because they’re used less often.

A M&T joint is one of the strongest joints you can make.

In your position, I would encouage the customer to go with M&T.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Gary's profile


9333 posts in 3459 days

#7 posted 10-14-2011 05:33 AM

Have you seen oval tables? The legs are always inside the apron. No biggie. You take the time to add support on the underside. If you get the chance, go look at the underside of an oval table. You’ll see how it’s done

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View robbert's profile


2 posts in 2443 days

#8 posted 10-14-2011 07:14 AM

Why are table legs almost always mortise and tennoned as the corner of the apron? Actually it is rare to find this on large tables. Most table legs are held on with hanger bolts through a corner block. This way the legs are removeable for shipping making the table easier to haldle and less likely to to be damaged,

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2995 days

#9 posted 10-14-2011 10:47 AM

I think you’re over thinking this. The apron will be just like a pelmet hanging from the table top covering the legs and frame of the table. You could do a conventional M&T job of the legs and frame, or if you want to speed things up, pocket screw either side of a biscuit and add glue blocks to strengthen see image. Ask yourself why does your client want pine (is it because it’s inexpensive) and if they want an inexpensive job, do you need to make it inexpensively?

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3077 days

#10 posted 10-15-2011 08:05 AM

They probably want to be able to remove the legs for ease of moving the table in and out. Some houses are tight with narrow doors and a table that big would be a booger to get in (in my house, for example). Renner has given you the solution, and I vote for #3 but would use a hanger bolt instead of a screw.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3345 days

#11 posted 10-15-2011 07:29 PM

I once saw a table I guy made, HUGE dining room (it must have been 4’x8’) table that had been broken at all four leg joints in a move. Incredibly heavy table. The insurance company hired me to make repairs.

I took one look at the table and DECLINED.

The guy had used biscuit joints for his mortise and tennoned joints in the apron.

I was amazed it took a move to make it fall apart…

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

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