Have you ever sat for dinner at a table that wobbles? Perhaps a loose screw or two at the legs is causing that wobble, or the legs and apron were not well connected to the tabletop. Or perhaps the table apron wasn’t connected properly or well.
The home woodworking shop hobbyist who has decided to make his or her own dining room table or another piece of furniture (a chair, for instance) can avoid this by properly attaching the table legs to the apron in what could be called a “belt and suspenders” manner. By that, we mean securing the joints and connection in two ways.
Furniture making is about solid connections, proper joinery practice, and good materials. We can help with some guidance to prevent that wobbling.
What is a Furniture Apron?
A table apron also called a table skirt, is a wood panel that connects the legs and tabletop. It is installed at a right angle to the tabletop on the underside and runs between the tops of its four legs.
An apron is used to provide greater structural integrity and strength to a table or other piece of furniture. It can also provide an aesthetic decorative touch to your piece of furniture. Perhaps you’ve seen ornately carved aprons and noticed how they can add both value and beauty to a well-made table.
How To Assemble a Table With An Apron
There are three joinery methods to consider when assembling a table with an apron. Each of them will provide excellent strength and stability and help you avoid any wobbling.
But, don’t stop simply with the chosen joinery method. Go the extra step we discuss for the added protection and structural integrity of the joints.
Mortise and Tenon
We know that a mortise and tenon joint is the strongest joint you can use in assembling furniture. In our previous article, we discussed the perfect tool for creating these joints – the Festool Domino.
The mortise would be cut into the top of the leg, and a tenon created at the end of the apron. Glued up, inserted into the mortise, and clamped, the tenon will hold the apron to the leg quite strongly. Creating a mortise and tenon joint is a must-have skill in furniture making and is the best choice in connecting aprons to the legs.
A second option would be to use dowels to join aprons to legs. Holes would be drilled in both the apron end and the leg, glue would be applied, dowels would be inserted in the leg, and then the apron would be attached. The number of dowels used would depend on the dimension of the apron and size of the table you are making.
Dowel joints are also very strong, and some lab tests have suggested they are stronger than a mortise and tenon joint. If you have a dowel jig, it is probably a faster method than mortise and tenon joints. However, if you are lucky enough to have a Festool Domino, the speed test is probably a wash.
The disadvantage of dowel joints is that alignment of the holes is dependent on the use of an accurate jig. Additionally, if you do not use enough dowels, you run the risk of shearing. If you are likely to use dowels in your joinery, have a dowel jig handy. They’re not expensive and will ensure the alignment is accurate.
Pocket Hole Joints
A third option is the use of pocket holes and screws. A jig is used to create holes in the apron (on the inside, so it is invisible), and screws are used to connect the apron to the table leg.
This also creates a strong connection for your table. Because screws are used, the joint does not require a glue-up or clamps, and you can continue on with the project without delay. The process is both easy and quick, and pocket hole jigs are not an expensive addition to your equipment inventory. They’re more expensive than a dowel jig, but if you want your shop projects to have joinery options, you’ll want to have a pocket hole jig handy.
Use of Corner Blocks
Corner blocks are beveled on each end and run between aprons at each corner of the table and connected to the aprons on each end using a pocket hole joint. As an added measure, bolts are used to connect the corner block to the leg itself.
Earlier, we mentioned the “belt and suspenders” method of connecting aprons to legs, and here we are at the suspenders. The combined strength of a mortise and tenon joint, a dowel joint, or a pocket hole joint, along with the use of corner blocks, will hold the table legs in place solidly, and your table is not likely to wobble even a little.
Can You Make a Table Without an Apron?
Yes, you can. The better question is whether you can create a strong joinery that will prevent your table from wobbling.
If you have ever purchased a pre-fab table kit, then you know what a mounting block is. You attach one to each of the four corners of your tabletop using screws, and in the center of the block is a screw hole. The legs that came with the kit have a bolt installed part of the way into the leg, and the exposed portion of the bolt is then screwed into the mounting block.
Remember, though, that the use of aprons adds to the structural integrity of a table, especially with the strength of the three joinery methods discussed above. While the aesthetic function of aprons can certainly be ignored, the strength of the table and its resistance to wobbling should not be. The fastener method of the pre-fab table kit is more apt to become less stable over time.
It will depend on both the size of the table and its intended use. For a family dining room table, we’d recommend the use of aprons and one of the joinery methods mentioned above, along with a corner block. For a smaller table, perhaps one that is more stylish than functional that will not be used for any other purpose than to hold a framed picture or a small vase, an apron might not be absolutely necessary.
We found a helpful video for you that discusses and displays the attachment of table legs to aprons:
Just like both a belt and suspenders will keep your work pants up in the shop, the use of a strong joinery method coupled with a corner block will keep your table from wobbling. Go the extra step and get a long life out of that beautiful dining room table in your home.