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I have an old 3'x5' dining table sitting in the garage. I think it would be perfect to go in our den as a large coffee table so my wife can do her huge 3000 piece puzzles up there.

The legs are detachable, so it should be easy to just chop off the bottoms to get to coffee table height. What I'd really like to do is have the height be adjustable so it can go between coffee table, mid-height for board games etc in front of a shortish couch, and up to dining table height.

I know a thing or two about metal work, but almost nothing about woodwork, so I'm hoping for something fairly simple. I don't need the height adjustment to be continuous or even particularly easy. My thought was to:

  • chop off the bottom ~6" of each leg and then cut that in half.
  • drill a hole in the ends of each piece
  • attach the pieces together with threaded rod

Then adjusting the table height would involve screwing the bottom sections on or off one at a time. As a bonus I should be able to use that to level the top too.

Questions:

  • Is this a sensible way to do things? The legs are straight vertical, so there shouldn't really be any horizontal forces on anything.
  • Can I just use a drill press for the center holes, or do I need to remind myself how to use a lathe?
  • Any rule of thumb for picking the rod (material, thickness, threading)
  • What's the best way to attach the rod? I was thinking to tap the wood itself, then glue the rod into the bottom pieces. Would something like a nut make more sense? If so, how do I attach the nut? (epoxy?)
  • Is there a completely different better way to do this?
  • It is really very subjective at this point. One thing I would caution, if the legs are not round, threading them back together will make it very difficult to have the two sections line back up exactly when the threads bottom out. You will want to account for this if your goal is to tighten them all the way down and have the legs line back up. Also, making two parts line up with a single drilled hole in each can be tricky. A drill press will work, but you want to make sure you are drilling true in the center of the piece, and then use a marking pin to mark the hole in the second piece. – Jacob Edmond Nov 30 '16 at 19:11
  • There are also many examples of tables built using this same concept with hinged legs, as opposed to detachable. – Jacob Edmond Nov 30 '16 at 19:16
  • @JacobEdmond: The legs are round, so that's at least one thing I don't have to worry about. I don't have the imagination to see how you would do something like this with hinged legs. Is the hinge at the top so the legs go at an angle? Or would it still be segmented, just with the bottom pieces folding out of the way rather than being completely removed? – thegreatemu Nov 30 '16 at 19:18
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    Using your thoughts, you can tap the wood . There are threaded inserts and I know I have seen bolts for this where the thread on one side is a screw thread and the other is a machine thread made just for the purpose you are describing. I believe these, they have opposing threads. – Karl_S Nov 30 '16 at 20:51
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    Mammoth job answering each of the sub questions here as fully as SE format strives for. But after a quick read through of what you want I have a simpler solution than any — make a set of legs for each working height you want. This is the strongest option as far as I can see, won't require any monkeying about drilling holes dead centre and then installing screws (even after that threading two sections together dead in line can be a nightmare!) and overall may be the fastest to make, and implement each time. – Graphus Dec 1 '16 at 1:27

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