Canadian Woodworking

Pedestal table

Author: Gordon Graff
Illustration: Carl Clayton
Published: October November 2002

Hidden within its unassuming design and construction lies a compound angle cut that will challenge even the most experienced woodworker.


It’s not as simple as it looks. That old saying surely applies to this pedestal table.

However, without this compound angle cut on the top and bottom of the legs, it is impossible to get the pedestal table to sit properly. A closer look at the table will reveal several refinements: tapered legs, angled rails and the underside of the top relieved by 12 ½ degrees. The methods used here and shown in the accompanying drawing are intended only as a guideline. Use this information to make a pedestal table of any size or height to suit your own needs.

Here are some steps to help you complete the most difficult task in the construction of this table: the compound angle cut on the legs. Once the stock for the legs is milled and cut roughly to the finished length, set the mitre gauge of the table saw at 5 degrees – then make a 5-degree template (photo 1). This template will be used throughout the project, as you will need to reset the mitre gauge and the blade angle several times. The template shown is made out of ⅛” hardboard, but any material will do as long as it is about 5” or 6” wide and approximately 12” long. Next, set the angle of the blade to 5 degrees (photo 2) using the template. The mitre gauge and blade angle are now set to cut a compound angle.

Cut the top of the leg first using the set up with the mitre gauge on the left side of the blade (photo 3). Measure the length of the leg and mark the distance on the leg itself. Now move the leg and mitre gauge to the mitre slot on the right side of the blade and cut the leg to length (photo 4). Do the same for the remaining three legs. With that done, the hardest part of the project is over.

Several methods of joinery are shown (photo 5) to join the legs to the rails. I used a traditional mortise and tenon joint, however, each one of these joinery methods is acceptable. I made the mortises in the legs with a hollow chisel mortise and a ⅜” hollow chisel (photo 6).

Now as you cut the rails to size, the 5-degree template you made earlier comes into play. Set the mitre gauge to 5 degrees using the template, mark the desired length of the rails on the material and cut the rails to length.

Cut tenons on the table saw with a ¾” dado set installed in the saw (photo 7). Install an auxiliary fence over the stock fence. This will prevent the dado set from causing accidental damage to the stock fence. With the mitre gauge set at 5 degrees and the auxiliary fence used as a guide, pass the rail over the dado blades making the first of two cuts that form a tenon. In this case, the tenon length is ¾” and it’s thickness is ⅜”. Now, by simply turning the template over, set the mitre gauge to 5 degrees on the other side of zero. The second pass over the dado set completes the tenon at the desired thickness. With the tenon thickness and length cut to match the mortise’s width and depth you are ready to cut the tenon to it’s final width. This is done by placing the leg and rail together (photo 8), and marking the final width of the tenon with a pencil. The excess tenon can be cut off with a handsaw, band saw, table saw or whatever method you feel comfortable with.

Taper the legs easily with a shop made tapering jig (photo 9). At this point, you will be glad that you made the mortises first because they provide an easy way to remember which face of the leg to taper: just remember to taper the face of the leg with the mortise on it. The taper on these legs starts approximately 7” from the top of the leg. The dimension of the top of the leg is 1 ¾” x 1 ¾” and tapers down to a size of 1” x 1” at the bottom of the leg.

Before the base can be assembled make the last cut to the top of the rails at 5 degrees. Bevel cut the top of the rail at the same angle (5 degrees) to conform to the top of the legs. The angled cut is not meant to reduce the height of the rail, just relieve enough material so that it sits flush with the top of the legs (photo 10 and diagram). The finished rail (photo 11) shows the completed tenons and a small block of wood glued and nailed onto the inside of the rail used to attach the top. Drill an elongated hole up through this little block and drive a screw through it into the top to hold the top in place. All four rails are outfitted with the same type of small block. Now glue, assemble and clamp the base and leave it overnight to dry.

Edge joint and glue enough boards together to make up the top blank. Cut to size and ease the underside of the top. Do this with the aid of a tall fence that rides over the stock fence and supports the tabletop as it is being cut (photo 12). This is a safe and accurate method to cut the top to the required angle. Clamp the tabletop to the fence and cut with the blade tilted to 12 ½ degrees. Cut all four edges of the top in this manner. Starting with the end grain first to minimize tear out. Sand and finish to preference.

This project will challenge you technically when it comes to cutting the compound angle on the top and bottom of the legs. Getting the angles correct is crucial to making the legs all the same length. Visually, it’s the taper of the legs and the angle of the rails that are pleasing to the eye. With this project, my best advice is that you experiment first with scrap lumber to get a combination of leg taper and rail angle that looks good to you. A pedestal table should look at least as good as what you put on it.

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