The hairpin leg was designed by Henry Glass in 1941 for American Way furniture. A simple "V" of steel rod was connected to a flat "L" bracket, cocked at a slight angle. Hairpin legs produced maximal strength out of minimal material and were easy to make, both ideal qualities during wartime shortages. The visual language -- dematerialized and unadorned -- was picked up by a subsequent generation of designers. Tacked onto any handy flat surface, they've become a shorthand for mid-century modernism.
For this dining table, the hairpins are reversed, angling inwards to brace swept-back legs. Instead of a conventional boxed-out apron, the substructure is an elongated "X", making a slim, elongated profile. The top is made of wide laminated planks, with a chamfered edge and through-tenons in each corner. It seats 8 easily, and 12 in a pinch, but doesn't overwhelm the room.
I used reclaimed Douglas Fir, salvaged from the boiler room of a vacant building. The 12" hairpin legs came from a website (there are a couple specializing in hairpins) and cost about a dollar per inch. Consumables, like glue, lacquer, and resin, brought the total materials budget to about $100. It took between 70-80 hours to make.
Lacking my own shop, I was able to do a lot of the work at the Station North Tool Library, a non-profit public workshop that has open hours twice a week. These sorts of spaces are cropping up all over the world, and are perfect for nomadic makers like myself. They are also proof that you don't have to own all the fanciest woodworking equipment in the world to make your project.
You will need these tools:
- Table saw
- Thickness planer
- Circular saw
- Belt sander
- Orbital sander
- Tape measure
- Adjustable square
- Putty knives
- Block plane
You will need these materials:
- Around 45 linear feet of reclaimed 2x10 material or similar
- 4 12" hairpin legs
- 1-1/4" drywall screws
- Wood glue
- Two-part resin epoxy suitable for filling knots
The lumber I found had sat in the boiler room of a semi-vacant building for about sixty years, judging by the dates on some of the lumber stamps. It was long planks, and I think it was probably used as scaffolding walk boards.
Underneath all that grime and heating oil was beautiful, streaky, reddish Douglas Fir. Whatever lumber you end up using the process is roughly the same. To clean it up, cut it into 8' lengths, then run it through the thickness planer until it is a uniform 1-1/4" thick.
Then use a table saw to cut 1/4" off one edge, flip the board, and do the other edge. Repeat, flipping each time, until they are a uniform 7" wide.
Note: this is not the classic proper method for producing square and straight boards, which involves many passes with a jointer. However, with factory milled lumber that is already surfaced (however years ago that may have been), dry, and relatively straight, I find this method to be much faster and just as effective.