Simple side table - lessons learned

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Established Member
30 Nov 2003
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South Derbyshire, UK

Having made a taper reamer and a taper tenon cutter as part of my progression to chair making, I made a simple table. It is passable enough, but having formed the holes in the top and trial assembled it I realised the diameter was too much for the leg splay an it was a bit tippy. I reduced the diameter a bit to recover stability.




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The leg splay puts their ends under the circumference. Making their ends form the points of an enclosing triangle would mean that there is no point on the top where pushing down would create an overturning moment but I think that would look too much. Anyone have any guidelines?

I would have added more splay on the legs? They look close to vertical. Three legs were more common on stools with more triangular shaped tops which goes some way to overcoming the tipping problem.
Also be sure to arrange the wedges at 90 degrees to the tops grain (like the nearest leg in the picture). Nice timber.
The perspective is bit distorted in the photo, they splay to the diameter of the top but I would do more next time. It is actually more splayed than a ‘bought’ table it can replace. It was just a quick trial, more to prove the tools than anything, so nothing lost. The top is from a board of ash that is quite brown. The legs are just plain white ash but I like the contrast.
Is there not a "rule" or accepted best range of angles in a book? Chairs and tables have been made for centuries and during that time most things must have been tried.

With that said, great job so far. I am looking forward to the next one.
Am not really sure the angle is relevant as for any given angle the stability reduces as the leg top moves to the centre. I think I will make a workshop stool next with the splay making the leg bottoms nearer the enclosing triangle corners.
I see that you've orientated the wedges in the tenons around the centre point of the table top, Colin. This is nice aesthetically, but maybe not the strongest way of doing it. Ideally wedges should be at right angles to the grain direction. The top right hand one in your photo, for instance, is just about parallel with the grain, and is thus trying to force the grain apart. This can lead to splits. I have a friend who has a collection of ancient milking stools, benches and small tables with turned legs and through tenons, and they were all made with the wedges across the grain direction.