We ended up buying a kitchen table with stools that are about 5 inches
too tall. My question is how to shorten the chair legs properly so they
sit and look good. You are talking to a novice with a power miter saw
that I think would do the job but I need a heads up on how to go about
I'm picturing trying to put the legs of a stool into my SCMS and cutting the
first leg without interfering with the other legs. In the movie that's
playing in my head, it doesn't work very well. This might be a job for a
I had the exact same situation- four stools with curved legs that needed to
be shortened by a few inches. Here's how you do it...
Get a board that is 5" wide (or however much you want to cut off the legs)
Lay the board on its edge along the floor and hold it against the chair leg.
Draw a line along where the board meets the chair leg.
You may want to use the board to draw a line around all four sides of the
leg- this will tell you exactly where to cut so that the stool will lie flat
on the floor.
As Todd said, don't try to do this with a power miter saw. I used a circular
saw, but even a basic hand saw would make pretty quick work of it.
I've done this a few time but I use a hand saw. I cut cardboard to equal
the amount I need removed and about 1" wide. Then I measure off that
cardboard against the legs all way round with a china marker (so it rubs
off) and then saw.
Most legs are cut at an angle to begin with and my cardboard/marker lets me
make the new cuts at the same angle. I smooth up the cuts if needed and
then stand the chair on a flat table or the flat part of the table saw. If
it rocks then I rotate one leg off the flat surface until 3 legs stand flat
and then mark the remaining leg and sand it to match the others.
Or use the shaker method; drill the ends of each leg and insert a hardwood
dowel. I prefer about 3/4"dia. but it depends on the leg size. Trim the
dowel so it protrudes only about 1/4" and use loutent's stand'n'sand method
to get it sitting level.
This also has the advantage that once the dowels begin to wear excessively
you can simply replacve 'em rather than having to do major surgery to the
I do this to all my chairs (as they slant like windsor chairs, so
putting the felt bottoms on for hardwood floors wears the felt out
I put a piece of 1/2" mdf (or anything else more or less flat) on top
of my tablesaw (which is very flat). I then place the chair on top. I
use my combination square to scribe the bottoms of the chairs. It's a
two piece design (like this:
main square part I put all the way to the bottom (like the picture
where the device is used to measure the height of a blade). The bottom
part should be easy to slide around on the mdf (or whatever). Then use
the combination part (the smaller part on top) and switch the edge of
the measuring piece from rounded and smooth to the blade side (a small
phillips is all that attaches it, you can kind of see it in the left
picture on the link above). Once you have the blade (or scribe) set
then you're ready to go.
With the bottom part locked so the sqaure slides freely around on the
mdf then you hold the chair in a way that it doesn't wobble (sometimes
one leg is slightly shorter than the other three -- hold it down on the
other three). Now align the scribe to the highest part of all of the
legs (if you have one in the air it's that one). If the legs are
turned they'll probably be highest on the outside edge. Once you've
figured the height, lock it in with the set screw on the
combination/scribe part of your square. Now all you have to do is
slide the scribe around each leg (holding the chair just like before --
although I tend to move the chair so each leg I scribe is in front of
me, not a science, just whatever works). The line that is scribed is
your cutting mark. I have a thin kerf Japenese style flush cut saw
that I use for cutting the bottoms off of each chair. If the cut line
is hard for you to see you can make it more visible by rubbing a pencil
or even an ink pen in the line created by the scribe.
Something else I've learned that will be helpful is that when I cut
each leg I put the chair (or stool) down on a lower table (I have an
assembly table that is a nice height) and I put a towel under the seat
(hardwood seats) and then I clamp the seat to the table (make sure the
back of a chair doesn't rub against the edge of the table). Now I
simply eyeball the cut and hold the blade of the saw against my
thumbnail and slowly start a cut. Once I get going a bit I just go at
it and as long as I start right it will cut correctly along the line.
When I get to the end of a cut, to avoid splitting off the the last
part of the wood I will hold the top piece of waste wood down with
slight pressure against the saw and then I slowly finish the cut (a
sharp saw is best obviously).
Good luck, do a barstool first if you're nervous and once you get the
hang of it it's a piece of cake.
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