Square Table Legs One Piece, or Glued Up?

Should a furnituremaker go to the trouble of laminating smaller pieces together into a built-up table leg? Here's advice on whether to do it and, if so, on how to go about it. March 13, 2007

Okay, 2.5" square table legs. Walnut. I could try to get 12/4 walnut and rip it, but that will be very costly, and may result in twisting and warping, then waste. Or I could try a lock mitre router method, using 4/4 stock, mitering 4 pieces together.

1. With the hollow center, how efficient will a tenon be if it only goes in 4/4 worth of wood? I would have to add some sort of center stock.
2. Will that center stock's expansion/contraction effect the locked joint if the insert is tight?
3. I know that one can take 3- 4/4" blanks, face glue them together, then use 1/16" stock to veneer the edges with the laminate showing. (I have a vacuum press.)
4. When face gluing... Laminating 4/4 boards together, is there concern about orientation of grain? Does the middle stock have to be the same wood?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor D:
Get the 12/4 stock and get on with it. Labor for all the faking it methods is costly, too.

From contributor V:
Contributor D is right that the time/cost will be far more than the little bit of difference the wood cost would be.

From contributor P:
Gluing four pieces with a lock miter can be a royal pain. 12/4 walnut is readily available, sometimes called turning stock. Look around on the web. Another option is to face glue two 6/4 pieces that have good grain match. But I would lean toward the 12/4.

From contributor R:
The lock miter approach is a very solid, time proven method. The alternative is regular miter and tape when gluing up.

Regarding your question number three, I do not recommend that approach. Lacks homogeneity. When laminating, you're better with an odd number of pieces (3, 5, etc.). In your case, I regularly go with a 5/4 center and 4/4 outsides in all the same species (whatever the essence!) and then veneer wrap the whole thing. Solid, reliable and looks very nice.

Sure, you could go only with 12/4. Make sure you get straight oriented grain for this thickness, otherwise you're waiting for a problem to happen. It just all boils down to what the final result you're looking/commissioned for. I do all those techniques regularly!

Regarding question number one, if you ever use the miter or lock miter approach, yes it is better to make a perfect fit center core of the same species. For this one, try to find stock with straight grain orientation (quarter sawn or not, when squared it makes no difference if its straight grained).

From contributor P:
Contributor R is correct, but the solid wood approach is fine since 2.5 inches square is not that large. Plus, walnut is not hard to find in that size. We are not talking Brazilian Rosewood here, nor are we doing a Stickley reproduction. So all options are on the table. Time is money. The final product will be attractive and sound either way, thus it will be a success.

From contributor H:
12/4 solid stock is fine. I recently refinished a table with 5 1/2" turned cherry legs. Table built circa 1860. It did not have the "time proven lock mitre" - they were solid old growth cherry. No laminations of any kind.

From contributor W:
In doing the lams for the legs, to add interest try using maple veneer in the glue line. You can spend a lot of time getting the grain matching, etc., but still may have the glue line showing. Turn that around. Or, a friend of mine does the glue so that the maple veneer ends up as the corners of the square stock legs, then chamfers so that the line is centered in the chamfer.