I want to build a dining room table for a coworker. It’s for her mother-in-law, and she does not want to spend much money. Can you give me some ideas on how to spice up the legs? I will use 4×4 or 3×3 to keep the cost down. I already thought of using a roundover bit on the corners. Any suggestions? Thanks. – Kevin Berry
Tim Inman: How to spice up her legs? I always think fishnet stockings and garters are quite attractive on a person of the right age and configuration! But now, to be serious … As a lifelong worker, student and teacher in the furniture making and cabinetmaking trades, this sort of question just about always makes my blood pressure shoot up — way up. Folks should not ask for, nor should they expect, custom-made furniture — handmade and hand finished, custom done for the purpose — to be cheap furniture. If an item is worthy of the time, skill and materials required for the job, then it costs money. If a cheaper, utilitarian, table is needed, for example, then there are other solutions. In my salad days, my wife and I used a wooden door supported on boxes — nicely covered by a fine tablecloth — to break our daily bread. Our occasional guests never knew what was beneath their chargers unless they crawled around on the floor to peek.
I’m not wanting to be critical here, but I am wanting to encourage — to coach! — woodworkers to honor their own skills and abilities. When we work — when people ask us to work – -we should work to the best of our abilities and we should be compensated accordingly if we’re working for pay. Dolling up a 4X4 hoping it will somehow start to look reminiscent of a finely designed period piece is probably akin to putting lipstick on a pig. It won’t help. So now I’ll get back off my soapbox, and go on to another question. At least you’ll know where my heart is — like it or not.
Chris Marshall: Good plan to dress up those table legs. Just my opinion, but I think they’ll look pretty blocky and “cheap,” otherwise. My favorite approach for table legs is to taper them on two or three sides. It gives the legs a more graceful and slender appearance, and it’s not hard to do with a simple tapering jig on the table saw or band saw. Then, I’d just ease the edges and call it good. It’s a classic “Shaker” approach that won’t go out of fashion. But there are lots of other alternatives, too, depending on what overall style of table your coworker is looking for. You might want to explore the larger issue of table styles first, and let that help inform the decision about how best to spice up those legs. The table may not come “cheap” in the end for your client, but it may be a more satisfying piece of furniture than she even knows she can expect at this point.