Introduction: Leg for a Wooden Table (incredible Strength)

Picture of Leg for a Wooden Table (incredible Strength)

I would like to start this post by thanking instructables for featuring my previous post. Hence I am still here and I am writing another instructable.

In this instructable, I will be teaching you how, incredibly cheaply, you can make a leg for a wooden table that is incredibly sturdy, without the use of any wooden support features and/or metal brackets. The wood needed is only that for the leg and that for the table top, but nothing else!

The concept demonstrated in this instructable is inspired by a type of a fastener called a "barrel nut", which is often used by furniture makers (such as the furniture made by IKEA). This concept is taken to its limits in this instructable.

Assuming you got your 4 in x 4 in posts for the legs, and any wood of your choice for the table top, then this instructable requires merely the following:

(a) A 1/2'' GI pipe nipple for each leg you intend to attach to the table top

(b) An M12 bolt of your choice for each leg you intend to attach to the table top

(c) Only two 1/2'' GI pipe caps, which you will use during the making of each leg but do not need to remain attached to the leg

The cost of all the above combined in Dubai (where I currently live) is 30AED (for a table with four legs!) which is equivalent to $8 US.

Beside the enormous savings and the rigidity, this construction method works very well even with low-quality wooden posts with cracks running along them. The only disadvantage I can think of is the fact that the table top strength becomes the weakest link in the design (more on that in the last step of the instructable, when we stress test the leg made).

So let's begin!

Step 1: Clamp and Mark

Picture of Clamp and Mark

The first step is clamping your choice of table top onto the leg's wooden post and following your choice of the M12 bolt, mark the end of the usable thread. Let's call this "the first line".

Now grab your caliper and measure the outer diameter of the GI nipple you purchased for this build, doing so, tighten the locking screw on top of the caliper to prevent the measurement from drifting as you remove the nipple.

The reason for doing so is that we are going to use the caliper's internal jaws to offset "the first line" in the direction pointing towards the table top, resulting in what we choose to call "the second line".

The two lines are parallel, and they represent the deeper and the shallower side of the GI nipple as it passes through the leg's wooden post. From the two lines, it is easy to discern the center for drilling. (in the next step)

Step 2: Drill the GI Nipple's Support Hole

Picture of Drill the GI Nipple's Support Hole

Before drilling, it is also advisable to use a center punch to mark the exact position where the hole is to be drilled.

Once punched, use a 22mm spade drill bit, drilling from below (very important!) and penetrating the wooden post throughout.

Take it easy as you drill, try to go up as straightly as possible.

Once finished drilling, it is the time to drill the bolt's mounting hole. (in the next step)

Step 3: Drill the Bolt's Mounting Hole

Picture of Drill the Bolt's Mounting Hole

Perpendicular to the previous hole, and centered within the leg's face meeting with the table top, we drill a 12mm hole to pass the mounting bolt.

Doing so, it is incredibly important to drill past the cavity created by the previous drilling operation (check the last photo attached to this step).

Now that both of the perpendicular mounting and support holes are created, it is the time to insert the GI nipple which would act as a giant barrel nut. (in the next step)

Step 4: Insert the GI Nipple

Picture of Insert the GI Nipple

Doing so, you need to distribute the thread equally between the right and the left side, by skillfully loosening and tightening the right and left GI caps.

Now that the GI nipple is in place, it is the time to drill it, which is by far the most time consuming part of this build (takes 5-10 minutes, and is the subject of the next step).

[Note that in the video attached to this step, the hole for the bolt is not made, in your case you should have that hole already made so do not doubt yourself]

Step 5: Drill and Tap the GI Nipple

Picture of Drill and Tap the GI Nipple

Congratulations! You're not very far from finishing this build, however, this is the time where you need to take a break as it is the most critical, and arguably the step that requires the maximum amount of attention and care.

Before we start, you need to mount your leg post in an upright position, preferably in a vice. It needs to be mounted pretty sturdily as both the drilling and the tapping will happen in this position. Take your time and make sure it is mounted well.

Before you drill, and since the drilling will occur on the round surface of the GI pipe, it is essential to center punch the drilling center using a center punch, or using a center drill first.

Once that is done, get your 10mm drilling bit and tighten it in the chuck of your corded drill.

For the drilling, the best practice is to lubricate the drill bit (not the hole), applying pressure straight down for a maximum of 20 seconds at a time. After each 20-second round of drilling, wipe the drill bit with a cloth and apply a fresh dash of oil (very important!).

As you repeat the above, please be conscious of the progress of your drilling by looking through the mounting hole.

Once both of the upper wall and the lower wall of the GI nipple have been penetrating with the 10mm drill bit, it is the time to thread both holes using an M12 hand tap. The good thing is, all this can be done with the GI nipple in place, in the upright mounted position of the post.

Beware that as you tap, the tap will show a lot of resistance (a sign of tapping the upper wall), then no resistance, then a lot of resistance again (a sign of reaching and tapping the lower wall). Work your way carefully until you have threaded both the upper and the lower wall of the GI pipe, and the tap is showing no resistance for the second time (this happens as the manual tap's handle get's closer and closer to the post).

Once that is accomplished, you have successfully passed the hardest part of this build. All is left is to attach the leg's post to the table top, in the next step.

Step 6: Drill the Table Top and Attach the Leg

Picture of Drill the Table Top and Attach the Leg

Wow, you've been a long way! The good news is that you are 3 minutes away from seeing your post attached to the table top, all is needed is to drill the table top at the point where you want to attach the leg, then using your M12 bolt to join the table top with the fabricated leg's post.

Doing so, and in case you wanted the M12 bolt to be flushed with the surface of the table, then bare in mind that tightening the bolt will compress the wood, hence bore the hole but while leaving at least 1mm of the bolt protruding. This way, when you tighten the bolt to full strength, it will be flushed with the table's surface.

Immediately after assembly, the strength of this joint should be evident. However, if you need a proof of how strong it is, please feel free to move to the next (and the final) step of this instructable, where we would be trying our best to destroy it.

Step 7: Test It!

It is important to note that if it wasn't for the countersunk feature of the socket cap bolt, this leg would have been much stronger. In fact, letting the bolt sit on the table top, with a thick washer would have made it indestructible, but while compromising looks.

As we reach the end of this instructable, please feel free to improve on our work and/or to throw in your ideas and suggestions. We believe this is an excellent and a truly viable build technique which we wanted to share with the community. Thank you!


DougM2 (author)2016-06-29

Nice instructable - cheaper than buying store barrels and certainly a way to make giant ones that will be very strong and very affordable.

You could eliminate the end caps from the pipe and simply use an unthreaded section of pipe to create a home made barrel. You might also consider tapping the pipe outside of the wood so you can clean the cutting oil off rather than risk staining the wood from the cutting oil. (Also, if you broke the tap while tapping in the wood, you'd end up destroying the leg to get the pipe and broken tap back out.)

Could also just drill part way through the leg and insert a section of pipe (the barrel) that is 1" shorter than the width of the leg. Then, one end is already plugged by 1/2" of wood and the opposite (hole side) can be plugged by a dowel to hide the barrel entirely (after it's assembles so you can position the barrel to receive the table bolt.

If you do not have a leg made from the center of a tree where the grain is circular, in other words, with the grain biased in a single direction - make sure the pipe is inserted perpendicular to the grain for greatest strength.

waraji (author)DougM22016-08-30

Great advice on making the pipe flush to the surface, or embedded with a plug!

I want to challenge you on your grain direction advice though.

From what I have experienced, wood most often splits across the grain, so I would want to position the pipe parallel to, rather than across (perpendicular to) the grain for greatest strength.
(so that any natural splitting that occurs will be 90 degrees to the pipe)

Orwa Diraneyya (author)DougM22016-06-29

Doug! Absolutely great feedback! I am working on the next instructable in this series and would try to take the concept to a better level. I am thinking along the same direction as your comment. Shorter barrel nut leaving 6 millimeters from each side so a laser cut circle of wood can be plunged to hide the barrel nut entirely. I am also thinking of a thread locking mechanism and an aligning mechanism. Keep up with giving great feedback!

casey526 (author)2016-07-04

to give a hidden finish drill table top hole a little larger for 1/4 inch and put a plug of material in it to hide the bolt head

yrralguthrie (author)2016-06-28

Good idea.

If you need 10 minutes to drill that hole in the pipe and or you need to drill from the bottom up in the wood to keep from burning it you need to get some new drills. :) No way that a drill bit should get hot enough to burn wood. Not even close.

FlorinJ (author)yrralguthrie2016-06-29

Even a sharp bit, if of large enough diameter and operated at a speed too high or with an advance speed too low, can burn wood.

yrralguthrie (author)FlorinJ2016-06-29

And what is your point? You really have to abuse any bit to get it to burn wood. I doubt any sharp bit you can use in a corded or cordless hand drip is going to burn wood. A person almost would have to want to burn the wood to get any bit to do so.

If in that project the bits are burning the wood then they are dull. My comment was written to add to the utility of that particular project. The man was evidently using very dull bits and commented in his instructable as if it was normal to take so long to drill through a piece of pipe and that drilling down would burn the wood. Both false.

You are right, my bits were a bit dull. However going so deep without removing the chips will eventually lead to the chips clogging the drilling. You can either use a vacuum from the top for extraction or flip the piece upside down every now and then to clear up the hole. Thanks for reading.

The addition of cutting/tap oil would help immensely in drilling through the pipe.

yrralguthrie (author)FlorinJ2016-06-29

On the other hand, any shape bit appropriate for the job at hand and operated at a correct speed will do the job quickly and without burning the wood. Again, no way that a drill bit should get hot enough to burn wood. Not even close.

RLRRLRLL (author)2016-06-29

there's a picture of your spade bits on the table. the table has a grid pattern (10cmX10cm?) cut into it. what kind of table is that, and where did you get it

Orwa Diraneyya (author)RLRRLRLL2016-06-29

Good observation! That's an IKEA table with the top laser etched!

RLRRLRLL (author)Orwa Diraneyya2016-06-30

that's a great idea! did you do the etching? I have a large cutting mat grid, but having a grid right on/in the table top is really cool!

DmitryP2 (author)2016-06-28

What about wood integrity under bolt head ? This bold targetted for alloys like hard steel and cast iron, is it break down a wood ?

Usually I use large washers but it is not this case -- it will look ugly. I'd like some DIY bolds with much larger heads with thin hex groove for wrench or two blind holes, but it require to have metal lathe in hands.

DmitryP2 (author)DmitryP22016-06-28

* bolts

Orwa Diraneyya (author)DmitryP22016-06-29

Dmitry! You absolutely hacked my mind! I was actually thinking of manufacturing custom bolts with giant flat (washer like) head that can be driven through two blind (or through) holes, somewhat in a similar fashion to tightening the disc on a metal grinder. A great suggestion but requires a fastener that is too custom to attain the "poor man's table" title or agenda which I would love to keep. Thank you for the suggestion!

DmitryP2 (author)Orwa Diraneyya2016-06-29

I like this car part: but this will be real challenge, if you have no muffle furnace to make steel hightempering before making drills and thread 8-)

David R (author)2016-06-28

another possible way to secure the pipe instead of the pipe caps would be to use conduit nuts. These are the same thread as the steel pipe. You can counter bore the sides, put these really thin nuts on the ends of the pipe, and these nuts are about fifteen cents each in quantity. It might be possible to cover it with a dowel, cut flush, to hide the nut and pipe end. These nuts are real secure,and they can be tightened in a recessed area by using a flat screw driver, and a hammer,p,ace the screw driver on the tabs on the outer ring, and tap in the tightening direction.

David R (author)David R2016-06-29

well, that depends, if you want to dis-assemble it to use it as a portable table, or to move it flat packed, you might want to fix the pipe in place. The author mentions removing the pipe caps after assembly in the instructable, but, shows the finished product with the pipe caps still in place, almost as an un documented alternative.

You are very right in pointing out that the function of the pipe caps is not needed when the bolts are installed through the tapped holes made in the pipe. I think your comment is a needed point of clairification that I didnt include.

This is a great instructable, with some really great comments. It has a lot of smart people thinking , this is great.

Orwa Diraneyya (author)David R2016-06-29

I totally agree with you David. I am really glad seeing how a simple idea creates a small but a rich creative thought space.

FlorinJ (author)David R2016-06-29

IMO you don't need to secure the pipe. The bolt that gets screwed into it sideways secures it anyway.

Cayotica (author)2016-06-28

personally I would use a brace and auger bit for the larger holes not a spade bit ... Oh! I forgot almost nobody but ice fishermen and old timers (like me) know what auger bits are anymore.

Orwa Diraneyya (author)Cayotica2016-06-29

Great suggestion, Cayotica! I've seen these in shops but never used them myself before. Will definitely use your suggestion in the next part of this series (Oh yeah, I have decided to take the concept a step further haha!)

sconnors (author)2016-06-29

For a different look on the tabletop, you could use a carriage bolt through the table and tighten it by turning the leg.

SpoonMax (author)2016-06-29

Great idea, and excellent instructions. Well done!

I think we have to differentiate between a one-time build (where all the ugly details can be recessed and hidden with wooden plugs), and multiple builds (where some compromises have to be made between appearance and flexibility).

trimaran326 (author)2016-06-28

Looks good! Thanks.

I have never been ice fishing so I guess I must be an old timer as I know what an auger bit is!

Errol1951 (author)2016-06-28

thanks great advice

Cayotica (author)2016-06-28

I've never thought of using pipes and end caps to replace giant nuts and bolts, of course I'ld be more impressed if they used a real sledge instead of a dead blow hammer to show its strength.

avalonbear (author)2016-06-28

This would be great for portable tables used at bazaars or event shows. Great idea thank you for sharing it.

Drake88 (author)avalonbear2016-06-28

If you plan to use this for a table that is being taken down and put back together often, using rubber cement or hot glue to hold the barrel nut in the leg would be a good idea. Over time, the hole will increase in size, and the pipe will rotate and make assembling the table difficult. Using a semi-flexible glue will prevent this.

TimothyJ999 (author)2016-06-28

This is a great idea, to which I'll add a suggestion for those who don't have a tap or aren't comfortable with that level of metalworking: drill the holes in the pipe nipple a little larger than the M12 bolt. Then, using a dowel or long forceps, hold an M12 nut in position inside the pipe nipple, and tease the bolt into the nut. Hold it in place with the dowel/forceps until it starts to tighten, then the corners of the nut will start to "dig in" to the inside curve of the pipe and you can tighten it all you want.

This may even be stronger than tapping the walls of the pipe nipple--it's a larger bearing area.

AChosen1 (author)2016-06-28

You said that it's very important to drill up from below. Why?

krockdesign (author)AChosen12016-06-28

I'd think using a drill press (hence getting a straight hole) would be more important than drilling from below.... just my 2 cents.

Drill a pilot 1mm or a 2mm hole first on a drill press then as you drill from below using a spade bit it will follow the straight pilot hole.

Orwa Diraneyya (author)AChosen12016-06-28

When you drill from below the chips fall with gravity and you don't burn the wood. If you can get around that while drilling from the top then go for it!

twfrost (author)AChosen12016-06-28

So the chips fallout while drilling.

AlfredF5 (author)AChosen12016-06-28

I have the same question...

carl5blum (author)2016-06-28

Hi: If you use a large spade drill in the table top you can cut a counterbore so a washer and bolt head can be used and still be flush. Also if you use two or more bolts it will be stronger still. Carl.

twolf100 (author)2016-06-24

This is a great idea, and many variations available! Thanks for sharing!

necdetgizem (author)2016-06-24

Well thinking! Great job.

I will definitely use it.

josh (author)2016-06-23

This is very well done! Great job and thank you for sharing it!

Lorddrake (author)2016-06-23

Nicely done. If you want you can even make these barrel nuts invisible.

cut the pipe shorter than the width of the table leg.

use a spade bit or even better a forstner bit to drill almost all the way through the leg, stopping before you break through the outside.

drill, tap , and assemble as instructed above

add a wooden plug to cover the hole containing the pipe/barrel nut and another wooden plug to the table top to cover the head of the M12 bolt

now the only way someone will see how it is connected is if they crawl under the table to look at the inside of the table leg

ClenseYourPallet (author)2016-06-23

Great instructable!! Well thought out and good instructions. Thanks for sharing

mickryobe (author)2016-06-23


The devil made me say it.

mickryobe (author)2016-06-23


With a sandal no less!

About This Instructable




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