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.

Restoring a Funky Dump Chair

I wouldn’t ordinarily write about repairing a chair, but I wanted to pay tribute to the artist who created this chair. The exact details of how this chair came into my hands isn’t exactly clear now. It seems that in the era around 1978-1979, while taking garbage to the Glenwood dump near Springfield, Oregon, I spotted a funky little chair. It had been left by someone by the side. I was attracted to it’s unusual design. Obviously it had been hand-made, a one of a kind. So I loaded up my “dump-dive” find and headed home.

It was carried from our Springfield house to the new house we built. tucked away here or there and finally in my shop for all these years, it was my intention to restore it some day. That day finally came while I was looking for projects to do while taking a break from other projects. By then the chair had lost a loose piece off the back and had gathered a lot of dust and debris.


This is the chair with the dowels covering the (leg) screws chipped out. Inset gives the chair dimensions. A few words about it’s condition and construction. It seemed to have been immersed in a creek or body of water at some time. There was a fine layer of silt beneath the joints at the back to seat connection and beneath the seat to the legs. It was constructed of redwood. The seat was connected to the legs using brass screws with a dowel cap over them. Everywhere else common nails were used to connect the parts. I will point out other details through the pictures.

The disassembly.


The legs laid out next to the cross tie piece.

The seat was attached to the legs with 2 1/2” slot head brass screws. Two through the seat to each leg and an additional one screw into the tie piece.


The legs were connected to the tie with a pair of 7 penny common nails angled in through the leg tops into the tie, each side.


You can see where the artist had considered using dowels to connect the legs to the seat. (Note the four holes at the tops of the legs).


I’m set to reassemble the seat to the legs. The seat has been attached to the back. I used 3” ceramic coated deck screws, with Phillips head. The legs are connected to the tie using a 2” same kind screw.


The chair back has a support brace at the bottom attached to the back with the 3” screw, previously attached with a 16 penny common nail. At the bottom right you can see a patch I made to fill where I lost the original broken piece.


Here is the restored chair beside our front door, where it will live out its useful life. We have speculated on the chair’s purpose. It has the characteristics of a spinner’s chair. But Robin has proposed that it may also have been a musician’s chair, as in a cellist.


The artist probably left his calling card on the chair. Under side of the seat and up front is a routed out image. On the right side you can see a crack. The seat was split full length . I repaired it by cutting a slot and gluing in a spline to hold it together along with the glue.

A google image search (now, but not when we acquired the chair) pops up the Gasoline Alley character Wally Wallet. Robin thinks Skeeziks, but I haven’t found an “aged” image of him. In any case, was the artist presenting himself in that carving? We will probably never know… unless someone close to the artist reads this blog.

May the yurt surround you.


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.