Table legs aren't just functional elements. Well-crafted legs can make the look of the table. Wood table legs are simple and inexpensive to create from dimensional lumber found at your local home center.
Making Wood Table Legs
To achieve the appearance of a chunky, solid table leg, two boards are laminated with glue and fused with bar clamps. The clamps are left on for a number of hours: pressure and time equal strength.
Once the clamps are released, each leg is ripped (or run lengthwise) through a table saw to bring the leg to a uniform 3-inch by 3-inch size. An electric wood planer smooths down the sides. If you don't have a planer, you can substitute with a sander.
After cutting the legs to length, use a router to round off the sharp corners. Sand one last time with fine-grit paper, then paint or stain and attach to the tabletop.
Type of Wood to Use
Two-by-fours range in price and quality from softwoods like whitewood, yellow pine, or cedar to hardwoods such as red oak, cherry, mahogany, or maple.
Softwoods usually cost about $1 to $2 per linear foot. Mahogany, one of the most expensive two-by-fours you can buy, costs $15 to $25 per linear foot.
Choose clear wood. Avoid wood with knots, cracks, or imperfections. Do not use pressure-treated wood.
Alternative Materials for Making Table Legs
- Steel Pipe: Steel pipe is a popular table leg alternative to wood that fits well with an industrial style. Choose your desired length of pipe, then turn the pipes clockwise by hand into floor flanges. Screw the flanges onto the bottom of the tabletop.
- Metal Hairpin Legs: Originally designed for mid-century modern coffee table legs, metal hairpin legs can now be found in longer sizes for larger tables.
- Parsons Table Legs: Parsons legs are about as easy as table legs can get. These two-by-two wood legs come with a pre-attached bolt at one end. Simply screw four metal mounting plates on the bottom of the table, then turn the legs into the plates by hand.
Observe all safety instructions that come with your table saw. To avoid kickback, be sure that the blade and the gate are parallel with each other. Make sure that the table saw's riving knife is installed. Standard with most modern table saws, the riving knife helps to prevent kickback, too.
Equipment / Tools
- Table saw
- Electric miter saw
- Electric planer
- Orbital sander
- 4 bar clamps
- Wood glue
- Tack cloth
- 4 two-by-fours, each 8-foot
- Scrap two-by-fours
With an electric miter saw or by hand, cut each of the four two-by-fours in half to produce eight table legs, each 4 feet long. The legs will later be cut down to the correct size.
Glue Wood Pieces
Apply glue liberally to one piece of wood. Lay another piece of wood on top of this. Repeat for the other three pairs of wood.
Clamp the four table legs with the bar clamps. Use a piece of scrap wood on each side to avoid denting the table legs with the bar clamps. Tighten the clamps. Glue will likely ooze out from the sides. Wipe up the glue with the rag.
Check the surfaces of the table legs for stray glue before clamping the wood together. This will help you avoid gluing the legs together.
Rip Table Legs
After about four hours, release the bar clamps. Run each leg through the table saw to rip it to 3 inches square. Cut each of the four sides of each leg by 1/4 inch.
Plane Table Legs
If you have an electric wood planer, run all four sides of each table leg through the planer to smooth it down.
Alternatively, use a belt sander to smooth down the surfaces.
Cut Ends of Table Legs
Most dining tables range from 28 to 30 inches in height. Use the electric miter saw to cut each table leg down to this length, or to your desired length.
Use Router on Table Legs
Fit a roundover bit on the router. Use the router on all four edges of each table leg to smooth them down. Also, run the roundover bit along the feet of the table legs to prevent the wood from splintering when the table is moved on the floor.
Sand Table Legs
Fit the oscillating sander with fine-grit sandpaper such as #220. Sand all four sides of each table leg. If using hardwood, you can increase the grit to #320 for an even smoother finish.
Paint or Stain Table Legs
Clean off the table legs with a tack cloth. If painting the legs, first apply primer. If staining the legs, apply a stain pre-conditioner for even, balanced staining. Apply a clear top coating after the stain has dried.