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A number of years ago one of the legs on our sofa broke off. The dowel holding the foot to the framed snapped. Now that I've got my hobby, I'm looking to affix the leg. I've drilled out most of the dowel in the keg and sofa frame, but it occurred to me that my 3/4" dowel rod might yield a stronger leg then the previous 1/2" whatever they used (looks like poplar or pine).

The feet are 2" square where they connect to the frame, and about 6" long, tapering to 2/3" square at the ground. Not 100% sure what species of wood for the frame, but it's definitely not pine. Best guess is maple or poplar.

Would drilling the larger hole compromise the foot or sofa frame? How "deep" into each piece do I need the dowel to go?

  • We need more info. How large is the leg (diameter or x,y and length)? What are dimensions f the frame piece the leg connects to? Do you know if the wood pieces are hardwood or softwood? How deep are the original openings for the dowel? – Ashlar Jun 28 '17 at 23:53
  • @Ashlar I've edited the question with as much information as I've got. Can't check the frame as it would require removing upholstery. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 29 '17 at 0:06
  • @ashlar also, not having built the piece, I have no CLUE how deep the dowels originally went, and I'm leery of drilling excessively deep holes without being able to see that. But the original depth shouldn't matter for answering how deep the newer, wider dowels should be. – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 29 '17 at 0:09
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but it occurred to me that my 3/4" dowel rod might yield a stronger leg then the previous 1/2" whatever they used

It would, but the strength might not really be needed. 1/2" dowel in a good wood is very strong as long as there isn't grain 'runout' (grain should run as straight as possible along the dowel, not at an angle to the length).

If you could drill the holes out* I doubt going up to 3/4" would be a problem, it's only 1/8" extra around the perimeter of the hole after all and that's unlikely to be significant.

But for simplicity I'd stick with 1/2" and just make sure to use a hardwood dowel (a strong hardwood, something better than poplar). From drilling out the remains of the previous dowel and cleaning out glue in the holes if they end up a little oversize so there's wiggle room in either the foot or the frame of the sofa I'd recommend you glue in with epoxy, not regular wood glue because the latter isn't a good gap-filling adhesive.

Any standard hardware-store epoxy will do just fine. If it's a little runny when mixed blend in a little wood dust if you have it, this is a standard way of thickening epoxy. Don't laugh but if you don't have enough sanding dust available you could use wheat flour instead.


*Note that it can be challenging to enlarge a drilled hole and keep it centred and straight at the same time which is another reason you might want to stick with the existing diameter.

  • Thanks as always for the great answer. Turns out I already had a 1/2" oak dowel... I've got my dowel trimmed and beveled the tip slightly so it will a) go in a bit easier in a tight hole and b) fit a little flusher to the bottom. Got the epoxy and a 3' bar clamp today. I'll let you know how it goes! – Isaac Kotlicky Jul 5 '17 at 1:54
  • Couch is now back in service, with a copious bouncing session from my rambunctious 3yo daughter. Looks like everything is holding up. Heck, I might replace the dowel on the other leg just for kicks (and it's probably cracked anyhow...) – Isaac Kotlicky Jul 9 '17 at 2:29
  • Excellent! Good to get a follow up, thanks. – Graphus Jul 9 '17 at 5:55
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It's unlikely that going from a 1/2" hole to a 3/4" hole will cause the frame to fail, but not impossible; Just highly unlikely. The foot, at 2" square, should be fine.

A ball-park minimum would be twice the diameter into each part (so 1-1/2" deep holes, 3 inch long dowel.)

Something that new workers often underestimate is how difficult it is to drill the holes into both parts adequately straight, so that the leg ends up attached straight.

  • I hear ya... I kinda already figured it won't be that straight... not being able to maneuver a sofa onto a drill press and all... – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 29 '17 at 2:23
  • an option to help might be to get a 1/2" dowel, mark the center and drill a decent size pilot hole using a drill press, then insert this into the existing hole and use the pilot to help keep the 3/4" bit straight. – Dave Smylie Jun 29 '17 at 3:30
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    @IsaacKotlicky If you have a drill press you can use it to make a drilling guide block which you can then clamp in position at the site you need to drill. These can make a huge difference in how easily you can drill square. The guide block can be made from any scrap wood of suitable thickness (you can also glue up to get enough thickness if necessary) and even in softwood will last reasonably well, enough for drilling a few holes certainly. – Graphus Jun 29 '17 at 8:13

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