Don’t have a lathe?

Don’t fret. Here is a reasonably easy why to turn a table leg so it has a rounded end. Then you won’t be forcing a square peg into a round hole. I’ll also describe how I made a small bedside stand using this method for the legs.

First thing, what dimension is the leg? — Say it’s 1-1/2″ X 1-1/2″ as was mine. The resultant diagonal dimension would be 2.12″ (or 2 and about 1/8 inch). I had already “edged” the corners slightly so my diagonal was just at 2″. I then cut a 12″ section of electrical conduit that had an interior dimension of 2″ (ABS plumbing waste pipe is another option). The leg was then inserted within the conduit, with thin cardboard pieces placed on the leg corners to wedge it in snug. These photos were taken later, but shows the step I’m describing.

The table saw fence is positioned such that the distant side of the blade would just slice at the point that is the longest length of the leg which would touch the underside of the table top piece.

The blade has been set to the height that would allow the blade to just touch the flat sides of the leg surface of it’s four sides. The leg is 1-1/2″ so my rounding will make the end that dimension. The blade could be adjusted to any height to get a smaller rounded end. The leg-in-conduit is then run back and forth over the blade. The corners are carved down first. The leg-in-conduit can then be slid side to side over the highest portion of the blade. Believe it or not, this method took about the same amount of time as setting up and dealing with a lathe.

The next step is to cut the shoulders of the square to round on the legs. When cleaned up the round surfaces can be rasped/filed to smooth them.

I checked my dimensions with a caliper and lastly tested them out in a mock hole before putting all the parts together for a final fit.

Now to the table project. There aren’t any process photos but the instructions are pretty straight-forward. I was building a small bedside stand for Robin. I didn’t plan this out much. Just an idea that followed from a small length/width, but quite thick (3-1/4″) piece of maple. To begin with I had thought the legs would be vertically straight down. But, Robin introduced a problem. She had a basket that held our dog Jeep’s toys that needed to go beneath the stand and between the legs. That meant the legs needed to splay outward going down.

After more or less squaring up and preparing the top, I made the legs as described above. A piece of spalted maple served for them. With the problem of having to put a basket underneath, I decided to just lay the legs (one side) out as if they were attached at the top. My work table has a white surface, so when the legs were laid out with a taper such that the basket (width dimension) could fit between I could mark around them. I measured the bottom (spread) dimension and then traced the edges out to find the taper angle. In this case it was 8 degrees.

Next was making the stretchers (the 4 horizontal pieces that attach the legs) also of maple. The lengths came from my traced drawing. I cut a tenon by running passes on the table saw at each end on both side faces on all of them. Then I drilled out a mortise on the legs to receive the tenon. After some chiseling and hand carving to finish them the stretcher and legs were ready for assembly.

The last major task for assembly was to drill the holes that the leg dowel end would be inserted. The holes had to be drilled at an angle so I had to make a jig of the appropriate angle that could be stable and level across it surface. The legs tapered from the top at 8 degrees at front to back and from side to side. Question: what is the angle that the holes should be drilled? (Answer in an upcoming post. Hint: it’s trigonometry).

After a final sanding, a dark walnut stain was applied and it was ready for a “dry” assembly. Before I put it together I had thought it might be difficult to get the legs into the drilled holes. As it turned out there was sufficient play in the stretchers to legs so that the dowel end went right in. The whole assembly could then be tightened with clamps. The final step then was gluing and assembling. That was done and excess glue was wiped off, job done.

Epilogue: I goofed up the basket height measurement and the basket wouldn’t fit under the stand. I think had I tried to accommodate the extra height the taper of the legs would be too great. Jeep was cool with it. His basket moved to a nearby location.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out our books about building a yurt or a small cable suspension bridge. The links to purchase are on the introductory page:

Introduction to Wildcat Man

Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2013-2020 by Marvin Denmark unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post my content anywhere without my permission. Thank you.