A friend of mine would like me to make what amounts to a coffee table
without a skirt. It would be a low table, just high enough to clear
the user's legs when sitting on the floor. As such there would not be
clearance for a skirt in the front. What are some alternatives for
attaching the legs to the table top? The table will be used as a of
computer desk, with the keyboard on top and the monitor slightly
I can think of about half a dozen problems with this design, but then, it
isn't for me.
What I would do is, together with your friend, make a mockup in cardboard
of what your friend wants. Work out size, height, top thickness, visuals,
etc. When that is agreed, then we can go to work on what sort of
engineering is needed for keeping the legs in proper relation to the rest
of the table.
There are ways of making it work, but...
Well, engineering concerns may influence the design. To get the ball
rolling, say the table top is to be 48" x 18" x 5/8" and is to be 12"
off the ground. There should be an empty space that is 24" x 16" x 11
3/8" that is centered on one long side.
The motivation is, instead of sitting cross-legged on the floor with a
keyboard on your lap, have the (fairly thin) table top just above your
lap, with the keyboard on top of that.
That sounds like an innovative piece of specialized furniture. Maybe
create a niche if you perfect it.
If I were to engineer such a table (I'm visualizing something like one
of those 'breakfast in bed' type tables), I'd probably use a single,
wide, piece of wood on each end for a total of 2 legs, with a sliding
dovetail into the top of table frame side. Maybe cut an arch at the
bottom of each leg for a little 'perdiness' and stability. For
lateral support, secure a small arch to connect the end boards to the
sides of the table top frame. I'd use a lighter wood like ash, and
put the end legs on carpet coasters, since you have to move the table
once you sit.
May also want to consider engineering some adjustability, height-wise
in case the user gains a few pounds or just wants to view work a
little higher or lower.
my 2 pennies,
There are metal brackets that would screw onto the underside and then you
use a hangar bolt in the top of the leg to attach it. I don't know how well
it would hold up on a desk as you describe though; I've seen them used for a
Think about getting away from legs and maybe looking into pedestals or maybe
some sort of frame and panel affair on each end so you have a larger
attaching surface. I'd have to agree with Patriarch that a mock up would be
The other day on Wood Works, David Marks made a bar stool with
laminated mortise-and-tenon joinery. Your table top could be sliced up
and the legs built right into it as shown in figures D and E on the
following web page:
This could also give an interesting effect because the legs would show
on the top of the table as through-tenons.
Patrick Fitzgerald -- http://www.barelyfitz.com/wood
Since this does not appear to be a "fine furniture" project, and will be
used for computer tasks where utility/function is usually more important
than beauty, the simplest option would be the screw-in type table legs
available in various lengths on the market.
The legs generally screw into metal brackets that are themselves screwed
into the underside of the table top at each corner. Some of them are nicely
turned, have a very modern look, work well, and a plus is that the lower the
table, the more stable it is on shorter legs ... and the less chance you
have of someone seeing the <gasp> cheesy "non-joinery"..
Using these screw-in legs does not mean that you can't have a nicely done
table top to appease/mollify the ww gods somewhat.
Engineering is the key. Table skirts offer stability in two dimensions
left-right and front-back. I assume a brace running diagonally from
leg to leg could offer some stability but only in one direction, so.
Add a small metal brace with flat shoulders in each corner for a
little stiffening. This along with the diagonal brace should be plenty
for a small table. Make a prototype using just one leg on the corner
of a board.
Load bearing is a function of the leg cross section and material. But
for side loads, ie bumping it, the attachment of the leg to the top
can be very important. Think of a table with a skirt without the top,
very stable. But without the skirt those loads are transfered thru the
Try to think of a solution without a top in place. This will be the
strongest and possibly the most visually appealling. Diagonals think
I happen to like the idea of running the 'skirt' (which it wouldn't be)
diagonally. Put some beefy tenons on the end and you've got some strength
back. In addition, make each diagonal board 'peaked' so that the tallest
part of it is where the leg/tenon joinery is and the shortest is in the
center where the users legs would be. Having it peaked would also make the
diagonal skirt 'disappear' more quickly from view (when viewed from a
distance), giving the whole piece a lighter feel.
I'm not really clear by what you mean by diagonally. From above, do
you mean a pattern that looks like an X instead of a rectangle? I've
also conceived of doing a conventional width skirt in a pattern like this:
! / \ !
! / \ !
! / \ !
! / \ !
Also, can a conventional skirt be turned 90 degrees so it is not so
tall? Then the question arises as to how to attach the front skirt
length to the two front legs. Of course, then there is more than 5/8"
of thickness at the "user well", which raises the question of whether
it would better to just go with a thicker table top.
As far as aesthetics, a couple comments: the idea is to make as a
piece of "fine furniture" even if it fairly utilitarian. Legs are
definitely preferred over end panels. Metals fasteners are OK only if
completely concealed, e.g. tabletop fasteners with a conventional
Then a "trestle" style table is a design to seriously consider ... if you
don't know what one looks like, take a look at page 5 of projects on my
website below. The legs/trestles are very adaptable to design change so you
should be able to come up with something that suits your taste in this
Yes it would be an X instead of a rectangle from above. If the ends
are available for an apron/skirt you could do an hour glass |x| from
above and it would be nearly as strong as the rectangle. Joe C. idea
of tapering is great and would look nice. As for joinery, I always use
mortice and tennon with glue,no pins, so it can be repaired a 100
years from now. Fine furniture today is about clean lines with
accents, IMHO. Ebonize the apron/skirt structure to mimimize it. How
about a walnut top, maple legs, black apron. Sounds good to me.
therefore, would be gradually from the ends of the 'x' toward the
intersection, where it would be thinnest.
I'm not sure I would go with the tapered legs in your sketch. IMHO, the
taper would either be so slight (given the short height of the legs, as to
be unnoticeable, or it would be so steep that the legs would look heavy
(clunky) at the top. Just my opinion, if you're going to taper, make it
It sounds like an interesting piece. Be sure to post pics when finished.
Make an apron (skirt), but don't take it full width. In minimal
style, these are little more than brackets.
Look at Greene & Greene, or antique Chinese furniture for the "cloud
lift" shape to a rail's edge. These could be very attractive.
Many dining tables do not have skirts. Look at a few designs such as
a trestle table or pedestal table. Or you can design your own. Using
"H" shaped (an "H" on its side) sides that form the legs and top
support. When you attach the top use button fasteners or slotted
holes to allow the top to expand/contract.
On Thu, 16 Sep 2004 04:53:36 GMT, Wayne Whitney
Well, a chair without a skirt-like structure would need to have stretchers
for the legs, or all of the stress would be on the leg joints. I don't see
how stretchers fit into the design plan.
But then, I've been skeptical all along of this design goal. Maybe I can't
visualize the desired outcome. Wouldn't be the first time, though.
Keep trying, Wayne.
I'll tag along on your post just because I was looking for a place to drop
my $.02 worth.
Another solution would be to simply built joined legs that consist of two
pieces joined at 90 degrees to each other and then secured to the top with
glue and screws from underneath. The legs could be tapered, or shaped in any
way desired, but the point is they would offer a nice degree of rigidity and
support without a skirt in both the vertical direction and in the
horizontal. No mock up necessary, except if you really feel you need to see
it before you start cutting wood.
Call me crazy, but if it were me, I think I would consider a mortise/tenon
joint between the leg and top. Don't recall if you mentioned the type of
wood you would be using but contrasting woods, for leg and table top may be
attractive (such as the combination ebonized poplar/purple heart plant stand
posted on alt. binaries.pictures.woodworking). I think would spring for a
wedge a contrasting color in the tenon for additional spice. The joints
would be strong from the glued tenons, and cheeks of the legs resulting in
ridged legs and improved ability to bear weight since the top will actually
rest on the legs.
Just a thought,
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