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Leveling Table Legs

One of the challenges with making any sort of table is getting its legs to sit flat on a level surface without rocking. I know lots of tricks for fixing the problem of tables that rock, but I’d much prefer to get it bang-on in the first place when trimming the legs.

This spring I’ve been building a lot of tables for an upcoming book (the tables are stacked up like a deadly Jenga game in our sunroom), and I started to think about the problem. Many of the tables I’m building have as many as six legs, so I wanted to mess around with trimming legs as little as possible.

At first I thought about using a laser level. That idea would work, but the setup would be quite involved to mark all the legs at one go. While in the shop that day for some reason I had my drill press table set really low for an operation, and the solution became obvious.

I put a moving blanket on the shop floor and flipped the table upside down on the floor so its feet were in the air.

Then I lowered the drill press table so it was a little lower – I cranked it so the machine’s table was 30” off the floor (taking into account the thickness of the moving blanket). Then I picked up a long stick from the scrap pile and placed it on the drill press’s table.

Leveling Table Legs

I shifted the stick so it touched one of the table’s upturned legs and used the stick as a ruler to mark a cutting line. Then I shifted the stick to the other side of the leg and made another mark. I rotated the table and brought each leg up to my stick.

After a lot of experimentation, I found that my shop floor isn’t level (surprise), so this technique works best if you leave the drill press in one position and move the legs to the same place each time you mark them.

After marking the lengths of all the legs it was simple work to trim them to their final length with a backsaw.

The result: six tables and about 30 legs later, all of them were perfect. No trimming or fine-tuning necessary.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 11 comments
  • ctdahle

    I’ll bet that’s exactly how Joseph Moxon did it…

  • amoscalie

    I have often told my friends that you can do a lot with a couple of clamps and a stick and what do you have? A couple of clamps and a stick.

  • tailwagger

    Very cool! I imagine it’s neccessary to find a location in the shop where the table top (or bottom) is level and the drill press table and stick are level so they are likely in the plane?

  • Bowyerboy

    You know, if you sent this in to one of those woodworking magazines, you could win a gift card. Just saying. 🙂

  • MysticValleyWoodworking

    What do you like for a drill press table Chris? Thanks as always for the innovation and insight.

  • NathanS

    I knew I’ve seen this table before.

  • don2laughs

    Sooo. Would a chair serve as a drill press table? How about a cooler?? Maybe a saw bench??

  • GyeGreene

    The world’s largest surface gauge.

    Good problem-solving.


  • Sawduster

    Supper innovative idea! I’ll use that. Russell

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