Wood Table Legs

Wood Table Legs

The legs are the supports for the table, and may be secured in several ways to the frame, or its equivalent. There may be but one leg, or post, directly under the center of the top, and ending at the floor in a spreading foot, thus forming a "pillar table". There may be two uprights, one at the middle of each end of a rectangular top, terminating in spreading feet, usually connected by a horizontal rail, near the floor. There may be three, four, or more legs, but four are most frequently used. These legs may be of an endless variety of shapes, and decorated by mouldings, carving, inlay, etc.

On Plate II. are shown twelve wooden legs which can be termed elementary forms, as nearly all others can be reduced to one of these. They are shown as chair legs, but they differ from table legs in proportions only. By comparing the plans and elevations the drawings explain themselves clearly; but it is desirable to study particularly numbers 11 and 12. Eleven is the "bandy leg" with the ball and claw foot used on "Dutch" and "Colonial" furniture. In many ways it resembles 12, which is the "Louis XV" or "French bandy leg". This latter is much lighter, more graceful and ornamental than the Dutch form, but it at times seems too frail to support the weight it carries; and, again, the curved lines make it appear as if bending beneath the strain.

Wood Table Legs

In many of the exaggerated patterns of these legs the violent curvature causes the defects not only to become more prominent but actually makes the leg weak. If the curvature is great the vertical grain of the wood crosses it at one or more points, and at each of these places there is danger of the leg breaking. By examining the drawings Nos. 11 and 12 (a larger drawing of 12 in three positions is shown on Plate III) it will be seen that a vertical line may be drawn throughout the entire length of the leg without intersecting its curved outline. This vertical line represents, then, a portion of the stick from which the leg is cut that has not had the strength weakened.

Chair Legs

The leg increases in strength directly in proportion as the distance between the contour lines and such a vertical widens. The draughtsman or woodworker is to observe that, although moulded and cut in irregular forms, the cross section of this leg at any place is practically square, and that in making it a square stick is first sawn so as to have the shape shown as front and side elevation (Plate III.) and then turned over at right angles, on the vertical axis, and the same form cut again. As a result the diagonal view will curve as shown. When the leg is complete and casually examined it is seen in the diagonal view. It is with the recollection of such a view in mind that the designer too frequently lays out the curve for the front and side elevation, giving them the sharp sweep he really intends for the diagonal resultant curve. When the work is made from such a drawing the draughtsman is surprised to find how great the curve is. In designing the bandy leg the proper method is to draw its three elevations and plans as on Plate III. and study the outlines carefully till sure they are right.

Whatever may be the shape of table legs they should be proportioned to the dimensions of the top that they may not seem either too frail or stronger than necessary for the purpose of support. Occasionally it may be desirable to make them so small and delicate that the table becomes shaky, owing to the elasticity of the wood, though they may be quite strong enough in appearance, and in reality, to sustain the weight intended to be placed on them. When such is the case the legs can be connected, near the floor, by horizontal braces, known as stretchers. Plate VIII. shows three arrangements of stretchers as applied to chairs, and those for tables are similar.


Stretchers are sometimes used for aesthetic reasons when not needed to stiffen the support. Tables having legs like Nos. 7 and 8, Plate II., do not look well without stretchers; the baluster forms of the turnings and the heavy foot of each leg seeming to demand a framework binding the supports together.

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