Glued joint to lever ratio (coffee table)

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Forum topic by drpdrp posted 02-25-2014 09:15 AM 2500 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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150 posts in 1466 days

02-25-2014 09:15 AM

Designing a coffee table that 18” of “free” empty space under it without braces for the legs. (so something can slide under).

At about 20” it starts seeming pretty high for a coffee table- although I guess it is sort of a soft line there…

This table will likely get slid around more than normal.

So, if the legs are 18” without support- how big of a joint do you think I need to keep the legs from wanting to break off?

This is roughly the sort of design I have in mind: THIS

I the legs were 4×4 and the top was 2x would a 2x rail provide enough strength? I think it would look alright and that probably gives about 21” actual height?


5 replies so far

View jmos's profile


716 posts in 1789 days

#1 posted 02-25-2014 02:30 PM

If your going 4×4 legs and 2×4 rails you will have plenty of strength if you use an mortise and tenon joint. At those proportions, a pegged, or draw-bored joint would look nice and add some additional strength.

That will be one hefty table!

I would not recommend trying to glue the legs and rails as a butt joint (long grain to end grain), you’ll get no strength from that, which is what I infer from your title.

You could also look at pocket joinery, dowels, or even metal brackets designed for this application. You’ll have a lot of meat between those boards for a joint.

-- John

View oldnovice's profile


5651 posts in 2788 days

#2 posted 02-25-2014 06:20 PM

Jmos hit the nail on the head, that is going to be one hefty coffee table!

Have you considered building the legs as a square tube to reduce the weight and possibly the cost? If you make hollow legs you could possibly hide some casters inside and make the sliding easier.
You could even do that with the top to give the illusion of that thickness and also reduce the weight.

If you don’t use casters, hidden or otherwise, make sure you have a good size chamfer or step on the bottom of the legs where they touch the floor to reduce splitting out the bottom edge when sliding the table, if you can!

Use table top mounting clips to hold the top to the rails to allow for movement of both.

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

View bigblockyeti's profile


3571 posts in 1141 days

#3 posted 02-25-2014 06:28 PM

+1 to the table being hefty. A mortise and tenon would provide substantial strength with the sized lumber you’re planning on using.

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7699 posts in 1800 days

#4 posted 02-25-2014 10:22 PM

What would you use for a dining table, 8×8 timbers? Don’t over think it. The strength is in the design, not the individual components: 3/4” aprons and 1 1/4” legs will be more than strong enough.


View drpdrp's profile


150 posts in 1466 days

#5 posted 02-26-2014 12:43 AM

Boy do I feel dumb. Of course I will mortise and tenon.

You see what had happened was:

I was originally thinking if I could literally just do legs and a top- then as I constructed the post and measured the goofy thing that will go under it I convinced myself that rails would fit and didn’t rethink it.

As to cost… Because I am poor everything I make is out of construction grade pine. The extra couple feet of stock for the legs to be solid is not a big expense.

I like the hefty look and I hate all my friends so the heaver it is the better for if I ever move! ha!

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