Need help with table assembly without wobble

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Forum topic by Oldhomestead posted 07-14-2016 03:56 PM 3814 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1162 days

07-14-2016 03:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wobble table uneven

I am very new to making furniture and have had a lot of good luck but currently very frustrated. I make a lot of farm tables, coffee tables, etc. most of the wood I use is new from Home Depot. I double measure every piece and normally start with the frame. Pocket hole the sides into 4×4s which are the legs. Once the frame is together everything is great. In regards to the table top I have tried a few things. Attaching board by board, pocket hole all of the boards together then attach to the frame using pocket holes on the inside of the frame. No matter what I do or how many different ways I do it the table is always offset when done. Sometimes a little but mostly a lot. I’ve tried screwing in the corners first all the way to not tightening everything all the way until the end and then it’s symmetric areas I’m doing. Please give me all the info y’all can on how I can fix whatever I’m doing or the best way to correct this. Thanks!

-- Fb - old homestead working

17 replies so far

View GR8HUNTER's profile


6369 posts in 1191 days

#1 posted 07-14-2016 05:07 PM

so what your saying is …....... just the top is uneven ? or is it the leg assembly ?

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4126 days

#2 posted 07-14-2016 05:23 PM

You should have a level assembly platform. For big assemblies
I use carefully shimmed and leveled milk crates. Floors in
homes are seldom flat anyway.

Your clamping and joinery habits can introduce twist,
as well as sloppy milling. Get more picky about what is
flat and straight. I use a 78” box level a great deal in
assessing this. I don’t use winding sticks a lot because
my eye is pretty accurate by now, but I’d be lost without
that 78” straightedge level.

Once your 4-leg assemblies are glued and have the
full weight on them, you can identify the one long
leg and carefully scribe it using a knife and spacer
all ‘round. Then using a razor sharp chisel, make
cuts all around. Then I use a dozuki to cut into the
corners using the chisel “wall” to guide the saw. Then
connect the flats and finally you have a nice even
kerf all around and you can part off the middle.

The resulting flat on the bottom of the leg will be
pretty clean. A little chisel/rasp work and/or some
sanding with 50 grit sanding belt section glued to a
flat board.


View Oldhomestead's profile


6 posts in 1162 days

#3 posted 07-14-2016 06:46 PM

Thanks for the info! Everything is straight as level enough befor I add the top on. I think it is the twisting that you mentioned which is going wrong. Is it bc I’m tightening too much too quick or can that happen if my pocket holes aren’t straight. I believe that they are but some could be off.

-- Fb - old homestead working

View Oldhomestead's profile


6 posts in 1162 days

#4 posted 07-14-2016 06:47 PM

Also gr8’ the legs and table top are all good to go. Problems arise when I add the top to the framw

-- Fb - old homestead working

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1398 days

#5 posted 07-15-2016 03:51 AM


It is hard for me to say why your tables rock after attaching the top. But it suggests to me that when the top is attached, the top is twisting the table base and thus lifting one or more of the legs up off the floor.

If the legs are all the same length and straight and perpendicular to the apron; the apron pieces connecting the legs are all attached dead flush with the top of the legs, the apron is not angled relative to the legs, and the top edge of the apron pieces is straight; and the lower surface of the table top is dead flat, then it seems to me the table will set on the floor without rocking after attaching the top. Unless I have missed something, a rocking table suggests one or more of these conditions are missing; probably the lower face of the top is not dead flat.

Since you are using home center lumber, I assume with no further milling, this could be one source of the problem. While home center furniture-grade lumber may have been straight and flat when it left the mill, it can take on subtle a bow or twist while waiting to be bought. These bows and twists are difficult to eliminate without milling and can result in a top that is not dead flat or an apron that is not straight on the top edge along its length.

It sounds as if you are attaching the top to the apron with pocket screws. Perhaps these are installed in such a way to allow the top to expand and contract. If not, then the top may contract over time which could cause the table top to crack. If a table legs set on the floor without rocking when built but the top is not allowed to expand and contract, over time expansion or contraction might cause the table to begin rocking. While not allowing for the top to move with seasonal changes can become a problem, I doubt it is the source of your rocking table problem.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3449 days

#6 posted 07-15-2016 05:30 AM

Only attach the top in two places, one each end at the center.
Then all other connections need to be designed to allow movement.

View CaptainSkully's profile


1610 posts in 4037 days

#7 posted 07-16-2016 05:46 PM

Make sure the boards that you’re using for the top have alternating growth rings so the cupping cancels out. One is bark side up and the next is bark side down, etc. One you have the table assembled, you can set the offending leg(s) on a sheet of sandpaper and slowly move the table/sand the leg until the table stops rocking.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1378 days

#8 posted 07-16-2016 06:27 PM

If your using box store lumber, I suggest you build and finish it, then cut off the bottom of what ever leg needs to be taken off to make it sit flat without rocking. I doubt there is anything you are going to do with wet lumber to keep it from twisting.
Got any pictures of what your building?

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 1181 days

#9 posted 07-16-2016 08:55 PM

Box store lumber, box store combo squares both have caused me more problems than I care to admit. I mill that stuff with the most precision I can. Band saw, table saw then hand plane and a shooting board. Also let that stuff dry out, I put in the loft of the shop for at least a few weeks hot and dry up there . When you’re able, find a good dealer of furniture grade wood and invest in some damn good layout tools, My skill level increased dramatically when I done those two things (?). If this doesn’t help then you have probably not drank enough beer. Drink until there are three layout lines then cut the one in the middle . All advice previously given is great as well.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Kirk650's profile


663 posts in 1227 days

#10 posted 07-17-2016 12:05 AM

You can do everything right (almost) and still have a small problem with the table being a small bit out of square. I mark the long leg (legs) and use a random orbit sander to take a little wood off the ends.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2925 days

#11 posted 07-17-2016 12:38 AM

I do have that rocking problem with some of my table/bench projects(not on every project but sometimes it does happen,don’t know exactly why ),I remedy the rocking by sticking felt pads on the bottom of the legs,these pads are of different thicknesses so I strategically put them on in such a way so the shorter legs get the thicker pads.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 1181 days

#12 posted 07-17-2016 01:59 AM

you can also use adjustable feet, get the right ones and you never notice them. ( but its cheating) But it doesn’t answer the question as to why. In my case it usually can be attributed to something I did not pay close enough attention to

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View jonmakesthings's profile


73 posts in 1297 days

#13 posted 07-17-2016 03:12 AM

I would say the issue is with using wood from a home center. It’s virtually never dry enough to not twist after you get it home. I had the same thing happen to me with my table, using Doug fir. After gluing and breadboarding the top completely flat, it twisted while I built the base. In my case it wasn’t too bad and I just levelled the table after final assembly

-- How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

View Plain's profile


157 posts in 1177 days

#14 posted 07-20-2016 09:49 PM

FYI pocket holes are not the best way to join wood and is very inappropriate to attach the table top to the apron. It is also not a good idea to attach board to board with pocketholes. Could be a reason of your misalignment too.

View Oldhomestead's profile


6 posts in 1162 days

#15 posted 07-21-2016 12:58 PM

Plain, so what do you suggest other than pocket holes?

-- Fb - old homestead working

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