Trestle Table Design Questions

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Forum topic by Vindex posted 05-16-2017 09:10 PM 1147 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Vindex's profile


93 posts in 1426 days

05-16-2017 09:10 PM

I recently completed the glue-up of the base for a trestle table that will go in my kitchen breakfast nook. The base is designed to maximize leg room in a very limited space that has bench seating. Here is a picture of the base in place (the base will be painted white to match the bench, and the top will be black walnut):

Last night, I set a cardboard cutout of the planned tabletop dimensions (63”x30”) and asked my wife to sit at each place and make sure that the dimensions worked. We decided that the table top would be too long and slightly too thin, and it seems as if 60” x 31.5” would be the ideal dimensions for the tabletop.

Shortening the length is no problem, but I am worried that making the tabletop wider could make the table less stable. Because I wanted the table to extend sufficiently over the bench, the table’s feet are only 23” wide. I am not aware of any formula or rule about what the base to top ratio should be to prevent tipping, but I want to make sure I am not about to make a rookie design mistake.

I have three questions related to this issue:
1) Can I put a 31.5” wide table on top of this base (the base is 23” x 51”, see my diagram below for detailed specifications)?
2) Is there a standard formula for the proper ratio of the base and tabletop?
3) Is it a good idea to use levelers at the end of each foot since my floor is not completely flat, or is there a better way to accomplish this?

Thanks in advance,


3 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3972 days

#1 posted 05-16-2017 10:42 PM

Brad, at 30” you only have 3.5” overhang on each side, another 3/4” wont make any difference. You wont have any balance issues. I don’t know of any formula for table sizes, just build to fit the space. If your floor is that bad, you need to look into it. Adding levelers to the base will put all the weight of the table and it’s contents on 4 very small spots. I would use a touch of double sided tape and a door jamb shim to level the table. You will want the top to be 1” minimum thickness but 1.5 will look much better.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1524 days

#2 posted 05-17-2017 03:07 AM


1) My sense is that papadan is correct; the 31-1/2” top on a 23” wide lower support would be stable in most normal circumstances assuming the top is centered on the pedestal.

2) I am unaware of any standard formula for the cantilever of a dining table top beyond the feet, although there very well could be one. There is a reference guide by Don Stephan concerning dining table construction. He argues that the cantilever of a table top should generally be no more than 6”, but up to no more than 12” for heavier tables, beyond the bearing points of the legs. In your proposed design, the 31-1/2” wide top would cantilever 4-1/4” beyond the end points of the lower supports and is within his standard.

See midway down the page under the heading Table Base

You could determine for yourself whether you are willing to accept the stability of the table with a 31-1/2” wide top. A pair scrap pieces could be cut to a length of 31-1/2”. These pieces could then be clamped to the upper stretchers of the base. The ends of these pieces would represent the edge of the proposed table top. A third piece that would represent the edge of the proposed table top could be clamped on top of the 31-1/2” long pieces. Then pressing down on this third piece would reveal the amount of downward force required to cause the table to tip.

3) Adjustable levelers would likely work, but could detract from the table. Another option may exist to eliminate rocking of the table, since the design sketch suggests the lower supports and the bottom rail connecting the lower supports rest directly on the floor all along their lengths. This option would be to glue feet (pads of wood) to the lower supports and the ends of the rail connecting the lower supports. The thickness of the feet could be ¼” to 3/8” or even thicker if the floor is very uneven. If this option is selected, there would be 6 points of contact with the floor making it more likely that the table will not rock.

View Vindex's profile


93 posts in 1426 days

#3 posted 05-17-2017 04:46 AM

Thanks, Papadan and JBrow!

Those answers were exactly what I needed! I will go with the 31.5” wide top and glue six feet to the base to prevent rocking.

I realize now that my initial post was unclear: the floor is level, but uneven because of the flooring, which has sufficient peaks and valleys to cause problems with furniture that makes continuous contact with the floor. Adding the feet should solve this problem.

Thanks again for the advice! This is only my third woodworking project, so I am still learning most things as I go.

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