I'm building a mobile (not on wheels) kitchen island for my partner in our new apartment, as a first woodworking project. A 3'x2' top is about right for the space, and she'd like an overall height of around 37", with a top thickness of around 1"-1.5". I expect to use maple for the top.

Because I don't have space for power tools I plan on using dimensional lumber, and I planned to use 2x2x36 poplar for the legs. But since that will give me an actual leg width of 1.5x1.5, I'm not sure this will be enough support. I plan to use aprons made with 1x3 poplar, attached to legs with mortise and tenons, along with 1x2 side stretchers near the base of the legs.

Are 1.5" square legs sufficient for a tabletop of this size? And will the use of this thickness of lumber (3/4" aprons and stretchers) prevent a good, solid mortise and tenon joint?

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Woodworking. This would be fine even if you used pine or spruce! Remember for standard straight legs almost all of the forces are being transferred straight down to the ground, it's only when there are sideways forces introduced (e.g. in splayed legs) that leg strength starts to become really critical. Since this is intended to be moved a lot more than a typical table the stretchers lower down the legs are a great idea. These can be dowel instead of M&T rails to ease installation if that would be acceptable to you and your partner aesthetically.
    – Graphus
    Apr 27, 2021 at 6:16
  • "as a first woodworking project" I laud the ambition but are you sure you want to take on mortise-and-tenon joints as a first-timer? If you're dedicated enough that you're sure you want to try them then by all means go for it but know that they're not needed for strength/stability and there are other simper (and far faster) options, including dowels and pocket-hole screws.
    – Graphus
    Apr 27, 2021 at 6:18
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    Not just M&T joints but, "I don't have space for power tools" - making them by hand! Good on ya! That's going to be a heck of a starter project. Make your mortises first, then make the tenons to fit - start a smidge large and reduce until they're just right.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 27, 2021 at 14:15
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    Re. fitting the tenon to the mortise, if you have a rebate or shoulder plane then by all means use it, it's one of the best options. But if you don't yet you can do this solely by careful paring, and this is considered a core skill. You can also do ultra-fine adjustments to fit with ease using a file; files are undervalued for this as well as other purposes in cabinetry.
    – Graphus
    Apr 27, 2021 at 21:20
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    Standard double- and single-cut files of all shapes/sizes/grades (super smooth - coarse/bastard cut) are useful for all sorts of shaping tasks. The rougher files easily take the place of finer-toothed rasps in a toolkit... at a significantly lower price usually. Plus they're almost guaranteed to last longer than some of the hand-cut rasps which have iffy heat treating (I'm looking at you Auriou). Also worth looking at the Kutzall rasps, which win no prizes for aesthetics but max points for longevity — tungsten carbide teeth, not metal. Plus they are omni-directional, which is hugely useful.
    – Graphus
    Apr 28, 2021 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


Go for it! I think this will be solid enough, especially with the stretchers down low.

The cherry legs on this taper to about an inch square. The top is concrete and about 60#. It held an espresso machine that was probably about 50# without shaking. Btw, there's a drawer in there, so it wasn't solid apron all around.

Edit: a few more dimensions... legs are 1-1/8 at the bottom, 1-5/8 near the top. Apron is 5-1/2x3/4 actual in maple.

Cherry/maple/concrete table

  • Elegant table! Just curious because of the colour difference, are the drawer front and the rail also cherry?
    – Graphus
    Apr 27, 2021 at 6:22
  • Thanks for the weights: gives me a good idea of the tolerance of smaller legs. What dimension are the apron pieces?
    – F McA
    Apr 27, 2021 at 13:38
  • The drawer/apron are maple. I'll measure the height of the aprons shortly and update, but I'm guessing around 5 inches. Apr 27, 2021 at 13:49

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