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Subject: Table Leg Question - for Woodcrafters Especially rss

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James
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Hey, folks. I am having a new game table custom built by a farm table maker and am confused about what kind of table leg I should pick from among the dozens of choices they have offered me. The table top will be 48 inches wide and 84 inches long. I want to make sure that the table sits firmly and does not wobble back and forth at all given the extra width. I understand that a wider leg can help with that. However, given that my game room is a little narrow, on the other hand, I don't want to get too wide and "blocky" a table leg if I don't have to. I will definitely err on the side of stability and get a blockier, wider leg if need be, though.

Here are some shots of my game room (with my present game table solution - a table cloth covering two cheap folding tables - 59 inches by 72 inches)





Here is the leg I would like to get if I were sure that it would be enough for a firm, tight, non-wobbly table (3 and 1/2 inch wide but with a tapered, narrower tip).

https://www.osbornewood.com/1014.aspx

...but I am wondering if instead I have to go with something like this...

https://www.osbornewood.com/1114.aspx

...or even this:

https://www.osbornewood.com/1150.aspx

Any thoughts? Thanks so much for reading and for any insight any can give, especially those who have experience with wood crafting/ table making.
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John Swanson
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I think you should go with the middle option, as long as it doesn't look too thick compared to the rest of the table. It should give you more stability than even the third option, because it is 4" thick instead of 3.5". Almost more importantly, though, is the shape of the bottom of the leg, or 'foot'. The square foot may seem more stable, but if you ever try to move the table, unless you pick it clear up, the square legs will almost certainly catch on the carpet and rack the legs, possibly weakening the joints. The middle leg has the rounded bottom on the foot, which allows the legs to slide along the carpet. If someone bumps the table (which they will), it might move a little more, but it won't creak, and the table will last longer. Also, square edged feet are much more likely to experience 'tear-out' if they catch on the floor.

That being said, 3.5" and 4" thick legs are pretty comparable. The true measure of how solid your table will be is HOW those legs attach to the top and apron. Just ask the person building it for you to make those joints bulletproof.

Have you looked at the 'Husky Farm Dining Table Leg, Part #1121' on the same site? That looks like the best of both worlds.
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James
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IrekIsmaren wrote:
I think you should go with the middle option, as long as it doesn't look too thick compared to the rest of the table. It should give you more stability than even the third option, because it is 4" thick instead of 3.5". Almost more importantly, though, is the shape of the bottom of the leg, or 'foot'. The square foot may seem more stable, but if you ever try to move the table, unless you pick it clear up, the square legs will almost certainly catch on the carpet and rack the legs, possibly weakening the joints. The middle leg has the rounded bottom on the foot, which allows the legs to slide along the carpet. If someone bumps the table (which they will), it might move a little more, but it won't creak, and the table will last longer. Also, square edged feet are much more likely to experience 'tear-out' if they catch on the floor.

That being said, 3.5" and 4" thick legs are pretty comparable. The true measure of how solid your table will be is HOW those legs attach to the top and apron. Just ask the person building it for you to make those joints bulletproof.

Have you looked at the 'Husky Farm Dining Table Leg, Part #1121' on the same site? That looks like the best of both worlds.

Wow, thanks for this thoughtful reply. Some of the points you've raised didn't even occur to me. You know, I had considered the leg you mentioned...

https://www.osbornewood.com/1121.aspx

...and your comments are making me consider it again, definitely. I had earlier dismissed it as I was trying to take the style away from it looking like a farm table in what is a non-rustic room, but if the legs and apron are painted black and the table top stained, I can't imagine anyone looking at it and thinking "farm table," at all, just "beautiful table."
 
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Jeff Saxton
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Once you get up to 3.5 or 4 inches in thickness, they'll be about the same in stability. As 'IrekIsmaren' mentioned, it's how solidly they are attached that determines how wobbly the table is.

Don't go with that third option (#1150), with the square base, it'll look really clunky in any room. I'd go with the #1121 myself. It has a classic look to it.
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Mike Toot
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I'm not a woodworking expert by any means. Heck, I can barely mark a line with a straightedge and pencil. But it's how the legs are attached that's the most important. The best would be a well-fitted mortise and tenon (or maybe a floating tenon) between a leg and the aprons. The glue-up surface area gives the joint strength from shifting and racking.

However, it's more likely that bolts and braces are being used. These are pretty good and will resist most forces, though you may need to use larger washers to help distribute the side forces to the table apron. In that case, your choice of leg is down to aesthetics as the leg shape generally doesn't affect table strength.

If you want to dive down a rabbit hole on design, you can look into the Golden Mean and play around with ratios of leg length and leg thickness to other design elements on the table. It's educational, it's even cool, but you may decide to design your own table and then the fun *really* begins.

(I recommend By Hand And Eye for a good intro book on woodworking and the Golden Mean. Not affiliated, just an inspired reader and newbie woodworker.)
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Doug Snyder
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Hi Jim,

How many legs are you using? The reason I ask is that to help with stability you could add a middle leg. This is what I did when I made my game table and it is very sturdy. You can see what I did by looking at my geek list entry describing the table build.
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James
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fdoug64 wrote:
Hi Jim,

How many legs are you using? The reason I ask is that to help with stability you could add a middle leg. This is what I did when I made my game table and it is very sturdy. You can see what I did by looking at my geek list entry describing the table build.

I never thought of that. I did consider a pedestal or a trestle design when making my choices but I have proceeded so far just with the plan of having four legs. I may have a conversation with the shop to see if additional, central support might be necessary for a table this wide. Thanks!

...and that is a terrific Geeklist you linked - very cool.
 
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Mark Ramsey
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You want sturdy? This is what I would go with...

http://www.cosca.org/2143/awesome-trestle-dining-tables-8-ti...

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James
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VanMark wrote:
You want sturdy? This is what I would go with...

http://www.cosca.org/2143/awesome-trestle-dining-tables-8-ti...


You could probably drop that down an elevator shaft!
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Zach Prater
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http://www.tablelegs.com/Legs/DiningTableLegs/FarmhouseDinin...

Here are the legs I used on my table, it's close to the same size as yours. We also used a 5th leg in the middle to give it that extra stability in the middle so it wouldn't bow. Here's the thread for our table:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1505883/our-new-child-or-ho...
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Jimmy Hensel
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As a mechanical engineer, I definitely agree with the statement that the connection of the leg to the table determines a lot of the stability. Although a tight glued joint can be very good, Using one or more threaded fasteners similar to the photo below can give excellent results. Also, unlike glued joints, it can be re-tightened fairly easily.



Here's a similar joint with wood.



The consideration of the thickness of the leg related to wobbliness of the table has to do with how easily the legs might bend. For this the thickness is more important near the top of the leg and becomes less important with closeness to the floor.

Smooth tapers may do better than thicker with decorative grooves yielding a thin section at the groove. Stress becomes concentrated at grooves. So for the same thickness at a given height a smooth leg is stronger than a leg with abrupt changes in thickness.

This leg though plain should give excellent stability:
https://www.osbornewood.com/1197.aspx

And of the woods offered, I believe oak is the strongest. Hickory and hard maple would serve well also. I don't know about the properties of alder. Pine would likely be the least strong, and the others are in between.

There's two things that can be done to prevent or reduce bowing without adding intermediate legs. Make the rails deeper (taller) or make them thicker on the bottom and top, like an I-beam. If you add to the thickness, you can put that on the inside so nobody sees it. It doesn't take much extra depth to really beef up the rails. Once again your choice of wood will play into this. Oak is the strongest, readily available, reasonable cost wood.

I just thought of something else to prevent sagging. Add a metal flat bar or shape (angle, C, etc.) to the rail bottom. It can be on the inside face rather than the bottom face. Attach with screws at frequent intervals.

Edit (actually 3rd or 4th): I'd like to point out a couple more advantages to the threaded fastener leg joint. It requires much less skill to get a rock solid joint, and the legs can be removed to make the table easier to move. I believe professional movers prefer to remove the legs from tables when moving them. I have seen this type of joint on several factory produced tables.

Edit (yet again): At least half of what I talked about is illustrated in Zach's table build post. Maybe I should have read it before writing my reply.
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John Swanson
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If you do decide to attach the legs in a removable fashion as shown above, just make sure each leg has two bolts attached. A single bolt would act as a pivot point, and you would end up with a wobbly table regardless of the quality or size of the joinery.
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