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I’m trying to build a fairly simple-looking wooden table with four 3" dowel legs.

I don’t plan on using any screws, what I want to do is about 1" down from the top of the dowel I want to create a 1/2" cutout that takes away a quarter piece of the rod (1/4 of the circle, like 1 slice of pizza if the pizza is cut into quarters) so that the corners of the wooden slab will fit right into the notches and hold up the table.

Does that make any sense?

I just don’t know how to go about cutting a square corner into the rod....I was thinking about sawing down until I get to the widest part of the opening and then chiselling the corner, but wondering if anyone has suggestions for a better way....enter image description here

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  • Nope, top of each leg will be untouched so aerial view of the table would look like there are circle corner protectors in each corner of the table top(sitting on top of the table). I want to cut right angle notches starting from about an inch down so that the table top corner fits perfectly into the notch tightly on all 4 legs. Would maybe reinforce with some wood glue, but if I make the notch slightly smaller than the width of the wood i figured I could get it in there fairly tight with a mallet
    – Shela0219
    Jan 25 at 15:08
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    Ah, I totally misread the Question, my bad, sorry! Now that I grasp what you're actually aiming for your plan looks sound, saw out the outer portion of each notch (the most critical part for a tight fit) then chisel out the remainder. Other than doing the work mainly with hand tools I can't actually think of another really practical way of doing these. With a router and a good straight-cutting bit it seems like this is doable (using two separate routing operations, one for each flat part of the notch if that makes sense) but the setup for that seems like it'll be super tricky to dial in.
    – Graphus
    Jan 25 at 15:47
  • What you're looking to do is called "Mortise and Tenon" joinery. The "mortise" is the hole (in your table) into which the 'tenon" (the tongue sticking out from the top of the leg) fits. I think... Could you please provide a rough sketch of what you're trying to do? After reading your post 3 or 4 times, I thought I had it, but then another reading has left me confused. A picture is worth 1000 words!
    – FreeMan
    Jan 25 at 17:06
  • See attached photo! The part I filled in is the part I want to cut into the dowel that won’t actually be seen from the top
    – Shela0219
    Jan 25 at 18:00
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I want to create a 1/2" cutout that takes away a quarter piece of the rod (1/4 of the circle, like 1 slice of pizza if the pizza is cut into quarters) so that the corners of the wooden slab will fit right into the notches and hold up the table.

Two methods:

  1. Since the corners of the slab will be hidden inside the leg, it doesn't matter if they're square or not. You can cut straight notches in the legs using a router, table saw, etc., and then clip the corners of the slab at 45° so that they fit into the slot. You'll probably want a dowel, screw, or some sort of other fastener to secure the joint.

  2. Use a router with a 1/2" bit to cut the notch. This will leave one side of the notch flat and the other side rounded. You can deal with this in a number of ways:

    • square up the second side with a chisel
    • round the edge of the slab where it fits into the notch with a router, sandpaper, etc.
    • flip and rotate the leg and cut the notch with the router again, so that the end of the bit squares up the part of the notch that was previously cut by the side of the bit and therefore rounded; this will leave just a tiny bit in the corner that will need to be squared with a chisel.

Note: if the slab is only held at the corners, and if there's nothing else to hold the legs in place, your table will not last long. Even with the full notches of method 2 above, any sideways forces on the top will put huge pressure on the corners of the slab and break either the joint or the slab. You really need additional bracing to help keep the legs from breaking free. Those braces could take the form of cross braces going between opposite corners and crossing in the middle, or stretchers that run between adjacent legs.

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    Addressing the reduction of strength of the 3" dowel could be accomplished with a dowel pin through the top of the quartered segment. Properly glued, the dowel would spread the forces into the leg dowels, although it does add one more cosmetic aspect.
    – fred_dot_u
    Jan 25 at 22:20
  • @fred_dot_u Any way you slice it, if the legs are only held in place by the corners of the slab, they're essentially levers that can apply large force to the small corners. If you add some additional bracing, so that the legs are held in two places, there's much more resistance to any movement. Tables need either a very strong joint connecting the legs to the apron or top (e.g. a beefy mortise and tenon joint), or stretchers that help resist movement.
    – Caleb
    Jan 25 at 22:28
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    half-inch thick table top is pretty hefty, and having a long enough dowel driven through the table and the dowel-legs will be stronger than without, but I agree that some diagonal reinforcement is indicated. It's easy to consider that the full 3" diameter legs (notches excluded) fastened directly to the table top is going to be weak and possibly unstable without gussets or cross-bracing.
    – fred_dot_u
    Jan 25 at 22:33
  • Good idea, will add some sort of cross-bracing! Thanks all!
    – Shela0219
    Jan 25 at 22:56

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