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Thread: Splayed leg table leg attachment

  1. #1
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    Splayed leg table leg attachment

    My sister wants to restore an old two teir table. The only real problem is all four legs are missing. I've come up with a design that She likes for the new legs and I think I have a way to securely attach the legs. There are leg slots in the bottom of the table that are 1/2" deep and about 2-3/8" long. They are intended for use with dovetailed legs. I really don't want to build a jig to cut dovetails on the angled ends of all four legs.
    IMG_0738.jpg
    I made some dovetail keys that fit the slots
    IMG_0739.jpgIMG_0740.jpg
    The slots vary in width to some degree due to wear. My thoughts are to use separate dovetail pieces attached to the top end of the legs with long wood screws and glue.
    The question is since the end of the leg is angled should the screw align so the shank is perpendicular to the dovetailed piece and on a bias to the grain of the leg as shown below:
    IMG_0736.jpg
    Or should the screw align with the grain and be on an angle to the dove tailed piece as shown here:
    IMG_0737.jpg
    Ultimately the leg will look like this when attached to the table top:
    IMG_0742.jpg
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 11-27-2020 at 5:37 PM.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

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  2. #2
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    Jan 2019
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    Saw this on my lunch and thought you would have some good answers by now. In my experience the TiteBond family will give you a stronger bond than the wood pieces being held together, rendering the screw redundant.

    With the screw pictured you are not going to have any threads in the dovetail piece anyway, just the head of the screw holding the dovetail piece down, so might as well go parallel to the grain of the leg, I think.

    You are very thorough, I am confident you are planning to countersink your screw heads.

    If you were to use two smaller screws it might both increase the amount of screw thread you have buried in endgrain, always a potential problem; and hold the two pieces in better alignment while you are waiting on the glue to dry.

    Another option, depending on your humidity swings, would be to not counter sink the screws, but use something like a #4 square drive panhead screw head for clamping, and then when the glue dries remove the screws and glue in dowels to fill the holes. That way if you need to plane a little off later you literally will not be screwed. I went looking at my square drive screws, lost the label to the screw package. When trying to do stupid screw tricks with dried glue I like the ones where the slot in the screw head is a square hole, and the driver bit has a square tip. I have heated bit tips a time or two with a blow torch and then jammed them into the screw head to pass the heat through and soften the glue, and that system can take a lot more torque safely than can be applied to similar sized Phillips. Do not apply torque to a red hot driver bit. Put the hot one to heat, pull it back out, slam a cold one in and then twist.

    Good luck, I doubt I am your best resource for this problem. I note your glue line is going to be long grain to end grain and that can get tricky.
    Last edited by Scott Winners; 11-28-2020 at 12:17 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I would put the screws perpendicular, gives the most direct clamping.
    Gluing end grain won't give you much strength, nor will putting screws in end grain, as the teeth cut the fibers.
    Not a very strong way to attach legs, but i guess that as it is for light use it is okay.
    I guess you are not attaching an apron or bracing of any sort, just relying on the dovetail and the compound angle of the legs for rigidity.

    I think that i would cut the dovetails rather then attach them, it wouldn't take long to make a router jig and would be stronger.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hennebury View Post
    I think that i would cut the dovetails rather then attach them, it wouldn't take long to make a router jig and would be stronger.
    Mark, The reason I didn't want to cut dovetails on the legs became more apparent when I mounted the first leg. The dovetail was loose even though when it was fitted to the slot it felt pretty snug. Because I was attaching it with screws, I was able to remove the dovetailed cleat and remove some material off the portion against the leg and tighten up the joint. I had to fit each of the four legs this way. Probably because the original legs had been loose enough over the years that the slots were uneven in width where it couldn't be measured.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Winners View Post
    With the screw pictured you are not going to have any threads in the dovetail piece anyway, just the head of the screw holding the dovetail piece down, so might as well go parallel to the grain of the leg, I think.
    Scott, ordinarily when using a screw to attach a piece to another you don't want threads in the piece being attached. You would either use shanked screw or drill a clearance hole in the attached piece. Doing it this way allows the screw head to pull the piece being attached tight, thus closing the joint.

    So now my legs are in position and ready for the final work and locating the shelf between the legs.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    I assume you would use two screws per leg not the one shown and drive them parallel to the leg. I like Scott's idea of removing the screws after the glue dries and replacing with dowels. If you wax the screws I don't think you will have any problem removing them.

  6. #6
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    Splayed table Legs - Update

    I completed the table this week and delivered it to my sister. She was very pleased with the results. I decided to attach the dovetail piece to the legs with two 2-1/2" long #10 Spax wood screws. The two screws were put in perpendicular to the dovetail piece. It turned out to be a good move because after assembling the legs and adding the shelf for the first time, the legs were not as secure as I wanted so I was able to glue a parallel grain shim to the dovetails where needed. The end result was greatly improved. Since the four legs will have any load basically straight down, I don't foresee any issues with the screws pulling out. It is far more likely the dovetail groove on the bottom of the table will fail first.

    Once I cleaned the old finish from the table top, there was a considerable color difference between the boards making up the top.
    20201110_143710.jpg20201110_145704.jpg
    By masking off the darker boards and applying one or two coats of stain to the lighter parts, I was able to even out the color variation of the top quite a bit.
    IMG_4786.jpg
    Although the table likely had turned legs originally, the tapered legs look pretty good.
    IMG_4785.jpgIMG_4788.jpg
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 12-15-2020 at 6:18 PM.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Turned out great, Lee. Really nice job on color matching the top. I think the tapered legs worked out well.

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