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Thread: Basic Question About Table Aprons

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    McDonough, GA (near Atlanta)

    Basic Question About Table Aprons

    I'm planning to build a table with a top that is 3/4" X 19" X 30.5". The "legs" will be an old Singer sewing machine treadle base which is 28.5" high. Is there a "rule of thumb" as to how high the apron should be or how far the apron should be in from the table edges? Thanks.
    Last edited by Steve Mellott; 06-09-2008 at 9:11 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    The rule includes "proportion" and "preference". A typical apron for a table of that size would be 3-4" tall, give or take.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    New England
    I always draw to scale to decide what "looks right".


  4. #4
    Most table tops are 30" from the floor. With a 3/4" top you need a leg height of 29.25". With a starting height of 28.5" you are only getting a finished height of 29.25". None of this is super critical but whatever you lose here has to come out of the apron width or you may have a problem with the apron rubbing the tops of your thighs or with chair arms not being able to clear the underside of the apron. Depending on the ultimate design it might not matter but, as a general rule, you want the aprons to be as wide as possible to provide as much racking resistance as possible while not interfering with function. As I said, none of this is "carved in stone", just some things to consider.
    David DeCristoforo

  5. #5
    How far the apron is in.... I have seen table tops that are several inches thick (not solid) with no apron (or you could say the apron is flush with the edge), and others where it is "way" back (but where are the legs?)

    Most chairs are around 18 inches high, so I like to keep the bottom of the apron at least 25 inches above the floor (I have a hard time admitting my legs are 7 inches thick)

  6. #6
    Most tables (like dining room tables) use a four inch apron. The four inch apron is a tradeoff between giving you enough strength, and leaving enough room for people to put their legs under the table. With good mortise and tenon joinery, the four inch apron will be plenty strong.

    The question of how far to set them back on the legs is usually answered by saying, "Not too far". The reason is that if you set them back really far, towards the back of the legs, the tenons for the two apron pieces will interfer, effectively shortening the tenon and weaking the joint.

    Most people set the aprons back so there's about 1/8" (finished) from the front edge of the leg to the surface of the apron. This allows you to make your tenons the maximum length (or depth).

    As a decorative element, you can route a small bead on the bottom of the apron. It depends on what your design is, but the bead is pretty common and makes a nice finish element. You can see an example of a bead here (about half way down the page).

    As David pointed out, most dining tables are about 30" high (finished). A bit lower won't be too bad and you can put some feet on the legs that allow you to get a bit more height, if you find the table too low in use.

    Good luck!


    [Oops, you asked for the inset of the legs and apron from the edge of the table. That really depends on the look you're going for, but a common distance is 2". You don't want to go so far in that the table is tippy if weight is put on the outside edge of the table.]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 06-10-2008 at 1:26 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    If this is an occasional table -- that is, not meant for dining -- the aprons can be any width that looks in proportion (but not so narrow that you lose strength).

    As for overhang, too much looks, well, too much, and too little looks skimpy and not thought out. I just measured my 36" x 72" table; the rails (beaded lower edges, as Mike suggests) are inset 1/2" on the square portion of the turned legs and the top overhangs the rails about 1-1/2", and it looks good.

    The best way to decide is to make your base and then play around with overhangs on one corner to see what looks best to you; on a rectangular table it's not uncommon to have a bit more overhang on the ends than along the long sides.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    McDonough, GA (near Atlanta)


    Thanks for all the good advice. Now to the workshop to implement it!

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