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I was 'gifted' this coffee table from my dumpster-diving father and am currently in the process of refinishing it. It's made of some nice, very hard and heavy wood I'm not familiar with; teak or mahogany if I had to guess. Anyways I'm not sure how to attach the legs in a stable manner. As shown in the pictures, the legs previously extended to the table top and were held on with some pocket screws and angle brackets. Any suggestions to attach them more securely while maintaining the size of the table (i.e. not chopping off the ends of the table)?

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  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. I'm not sure how relevant it might be to any suggestions but just how thick is the top? It looks plenty beefy regardless of the actual measurement; I'm mostly curious if it's more than 1". And just to confirm, the legs splay slightly yes?
    – Graphus
    Sep 9 at 7:07
  • As you might or might not know, we can't directly help with wood IDs because it was decided early on these were off-topic (in part because of how notoriously difficult it is to do from photos). But FWIW I think this might be made from jarrah, and two varieties of it (red for the top obviously). Merbau as suggested in the Answer by @Volfram K is a possibility, the legs look right but I'm not sure I've ever seen it quite as red as the underside of the tabletop.
    – Graphus
    Sep 9 at 7:11
  • Thanks! It's a little over 1" thick. The underside of the table still has the original finish - everything else (legs, sides) has been sanded down.
    – DanCo89
    Sep 9 at 14:53
  • So the original finish was reddish? Darn it I hadn't considered that (the underside of tabletops are frequently not finished). Based on this I think merbau is looking just as likely if not more so than jarrah, but just to reiterate the difficulty of doing IDs from photos it could be something else entirely LOL
    – Graphus
    Sep 10 at 7:05
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enter image description here

I procrastinated this for quite a while but ended up going a completely different direction from what I was thinking initially. Couldn't find an elegant way to connect the legs with the original style so I flushed up the ends of the table, then made 2 legs from ripping the original 4 in half and joining them together. I then connected it to the table by routing a groove and securing them with some threaded inserts. Finished with some wipe-on poly.

Side note: whatever wood this is (perhaps jarrah or merbau as as suggested)did not play nicely with my respiratory system. Even with wearing a mask, I had nasty allergy symptoms for nearly a week after sanding it.

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    Nice. Thinking out of the box is what re-purposing is all about. It looks very nice indeed.
    – jdv
    Nov 14 at 17:46
  • Congrats, that looks great! But this should really be an update to the original Q, not posted as an Answer.
    – Graphus
    Nov 14 at 23:01
  • Very nice! Looks great man!
    – gnicko
    Nov 15 at 2:11
  • Interesting, @Graphus. Over at Home Improvement, we're discussing doing it exactly the opposite. I mean, this is an answer to the question "How do I attach the legs?". It's a rather outside-the-box answer (and that's a good thing), but it does answer the question. It also allows the OP to select it as the correct one (since it's the one he went with) so the question appears to be resolved.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 15 at 19:08
  • @FreeMan, actually technically isn't this not an Answer to the Q as posed? See last sentence of first paragraph. What the OP has done here is of course a viable alternative plan — and, overall, a preferable one (although the threaded inserts thing concerns me, I just didn't want to get into it) — that could be included in an Answer, but it should answer the question as posed first and foremost, as per How do I write a good answer? Many similar updates posted here in Qs, AND, when posted as Answers converted to updates by the mods.
    – Graphus
    Nov 16 at 12:26
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To maintain current size there are few options.

The existing system we must guess was good enough when the table was new. Perhaps screws got loose and were not tightened? And the pocket screws appear to be short! Because the legs are so thick these screws could be double previous length I think. Deepen pilot holes if you add longer screws.

Unless corner blocks can be made that match compound angles perfectly I think metal brackets are the best option. By using thicker and longer brackets stability would be improved. Maybe doubling up as well? Same type as before but bigger to attach legs to top + another set to screw to stretchers and rails. You must pre-drill for any new screws.

You could pocket screw into the legs through the top. Two screws each side of each leg, so 16 new pocket screws in total. I think this would be strong enough for a coffee table but not sure.

So all options:

  • After repairs use existing system making sure all screws are tight
  • Increase size of angle brackets + add more
  • Pocket screws instead of existing system
  • Suspenders and belt - pocket screws added to existing system

P.S. The wood maybe is merbau. Even if colour was correct I think the table is too new to be teak. And mahogany is very different, not hard and not heavy.

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  • Although the original screws were tight, the angle brackets were only 1/2" wide and made of 12 ga steel - not very strong. I was also thinking of making a mortise and tenon from additional wood and attaching it to the legs on each short side and then securing it to the top and side with screws.
    – DanCo89
    Sep 9 at 15:00
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Corner braces like these are a very common way to attach legs. They're attractive for commercial furniture because they create a strong joint that's easy to assemble and disassemble, so you can ship the table with the legs removed. You can buy commercially-made metal ones like the ones in the picture, or make your own with pieces of wood glued and screwed at a 45° angle between adjacent apron pieces. Either way, the leg is connected to the metal or wood bracket via a threaded rod or hanger bolt driven into the corner of the leg, and the nut on the other side of the bracket lets you pull the leg tight to the apron, creating a strong joint that can be tightened if it gets loose over time.

If you go with the metal brackets, you'll need to cut a saw kerf into the inside of the apron. Normally, you'd do that on a table saw while building the table, but you could use an oscillating saw to add that now -- just be careful not to cut too deep and weaken the apron.

metal corner braces

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    That's a good idea, but I don't think it will work in this specific case given the geometry/dimensions involved. It's a good suggestion for other circumstances.
    – gnicko
    Sep 10 at 16:32
  • Yeah these won't work, at least not properly, with the table as it stands. Really, I think the only sure-fire fix here is to restructure the table unless it will now live in an unusually stable environment.
    – Graphus
    Sep 10 at 17:43
  • @Graphus The only issue I can see is that the top is notched for the legs, so the top's load isn't transferred directly onto the legs. But supporting the top is really the apron's job anyway. It might help to add some steel pins/dowels where the aprons were screwed to the leg. And depending on how far the inside corner of the leg protrudes inside the apron, the corner might need to be shaved down to make space for metal braces (if you use wood ones, just size them to miss the leg). But I see nothing that would prevent corner brackets from working as they do in any other table.
    – Caleb
    Sep 10 at 18:30
  • The issue with the legs being outboard like this is that the top wants to push and pull them as its width changes; this would be fine if it was just four legs, but anchoring them to the rails and stiles tries to constrain this movement. Corner blocks blocks or brackets are made for tables built the right way — with legs of leg assemblies that sit independent of the expansion and contraction of the top.
    – Graphus
    Sep 11 at 7:00
  • We've had 4(?) kitchen tables. All hand-me-downs. All had corner brackets like these and all 4 had loose, wobbly legs. The bolts to the legs required constant retightening - at least once a year, often more than that. Maybe it was just cheap furniture, but I have little faith in the long-term security of these corner brackets.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 15 at 19:12
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The underlying problem is that the table was built as a tabletop with some legs "stuck on" rather than a solid leg assembly to which a table top was attached.

You could disassemble the tabletop, (in other words, remove the stretchers) and attach the stretchers to the legs using your choice of dowels/dominoes/floating tenons, etc. to build a solid platform. Then properly attach the top to the leg assembly with "figure 8" connectors or Z-brackets or another method that will allow movement between the tabletop and the base of the table. (See: What general considerations do I need to take into account for wood movement?)

Screws and angle brackets can hold nice and tight at first, but will loosen up over time as the wood moves and people interact with the table. Coffee tables can experience more racking and so on than most people realize. People will sit on them eventually.

Seasonal movement in the top added to the pocket screws loosening up over time. First in one direction, then as a result, in the other direction.

My guess is that, once the legs started to loosen up, someone came along and added the angle brackets to bolster the legs. I doubt it was originally built that way.

I don't think that process is going to stop with new screws and thicker brackets but it may result in wood splitting, cracking, or the screws just loosening up again.

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  • +1, but adding floating tenons is a tricky job on angled components! I'm a big fan of dowels anyway and they seem an idea solution here (much easier to locate and install), shame they can't be used in both directions because of the stupid table design. "It seems like seasonal movement in the top may have added to the pocket screws loosening up over time." Definitely on the rails! They probably directly contributed to the failure of the screws on the stiles (literally tugging them out sideways, a little at a time every wet season).
    – Graphus
    Sep 10 at 7:11
  • I'm thinking to entirely disassemble the table and attach the stretchers/rails/stiles to the legs so it could go "in both directions"... Essentially re-build the table with the existing components to make up for poor design. What they did was build a tabletop and then add legs. Should have built solid legs/platform and then attached a top. That needs to be walked back and the components reassembled. You're right about the splayed legs making it harder but I'm not sure the legs have an angle to them. The more I look at the photos, the less I'm sure and the OP didn't confirm.
    – gnicko
    Sep 10 at 13:24
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    Looking at the photos again, I'm pretty sure the legs don't have an angle to them. The pictures seem to be distorted. The first one seems to have the tabletop (and the legs sitting on it) getting "longer" from left to right. (Notice how the ends of the tabletop are not parallel?) The second picture shows the glue bottle "leaning" to the right yet remaining parallel with the ends of the legs.
    – gnicko
    Sep 10 at 13:50
  • I do still think the legs might splay given the apparent splay of the apron pieces but good spot on the distortion in the photo with the glue bottle leaning (well, appearing to at least!) I'd missed that completely.
    – Graphus
    Sep 10 at 17:39
  • Love to know the reason for the downvote on your Answer, given the plethora of too-brief Answers here that either don't answer the Question at all or only incompletely :-|
    – Graphus
    Sep 10 at 17:42

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