How To Attach Furniture Feet
Using screws and bolts to fasten wood feet to furniture.
Looking for an easy way to affix a wooden leg to your furniture project? Each option features its own combination of strength, convenience, and durability.
In common with each method is the idea that we install some type of steel fastener into the top surface of your wooden foot or leg. And, that the portion of the fastener that sticks out above your wood part is then threaded into the underside of your furniture- either directly into the wood underside, into a mounting plate, into an embedded insert, or onto a wooden cleat. Installing this steel fastener into your part straight, and to the correct depth, is a key part of ultimate strength and safety of the mechanical joint. If it’s not done well, the joint will be weak.
Let’s start with safety. These mechanical systems are optimized for convenience. And to varying degrees, this convenience comes at the price of safety. Two of the three solutions are light-duty solutions for low furniture, and light loads centered vertically above the foot or leg. They are not for heavy loads, joints experiencing lateral (sideways) forces, or heights that might be dangerous upon joint failure. We recommend you over-engineer when deciding on which solution to use.
Let’s review the pros and cons of these solutions. We will discuss them in strength order, from the weakest and most failure-prone to the strongest.
Dowel screw with wood thread
With the dowel screw, you essentially get a quarter-inch diameter lag-type wood screw sticking up about an inch from the top of your wood part. You bore a pilot hole in the underside of your furniture, and spin the leg into position until the top of the leg meets the underside of your furniture. This works well for small projects in the light duty category like ottomans. It can also work well for sofa legs- especially when your sofa foot is wide rather than narrow. It can work well for very small tables that don’t get moved around much. The problem here is that the more the joint is worked (the more the furniture is moved around), the more the hard metal threads will deform the size and shape of the softer wood around the bore hole. The mechanical connection between the threads and the wood grain will weaken over time and eventually fail.
With the dowel screw, the narrower and taller the foot or leg, the more it will work at deforming the hole. Accordingly, the dowel screw can be very useful in securing wide, low feet to a sofa frame. Failure tends not to be catastrophic on a low, wide sofa foot.
But, used on a dining table where diners might be pushing high-up and sideways against the table, this type of failure, with people and glass and hot food, could be sudden and very dangerous. We do not recommend dowel screws as a solution for seating, or for tables other than the lightest-duty end stands or coffee tables. We never recommend the dowel screw for use on beds or dining tables.
Screwing the dowel screw into harder woods will prolong joint integrity compared to softer woods. And, the lower this joint is on furniture the better. And, the less the furniture is pushed around the room the better.
Metal attachment plate systems
For this option, you first decide if you want your furniture legs to be straight (vertical) or splayed (at an angle), and order the metal plate that corresponds to the look you want. When your order arrives, you mount your stamped steel plate to the underside of your furniture with the four supplied wood screws. Four legs need four plates, fastened with 16 screws, total.
For both angled and straight mounting of the legs, the bolt we install in the top of the leg is the same 5/16” diameter, and projects just a quarter-inch above the top of the leg. Once you have mounted the metal plate, you simply spin the foot or leg until it snugs up against the plate. It’s the plate that gives the legs the angled or straight look, not the bolt.
This system is only slightly more rugged than the dowel screw. Even though there are four wood screws per plate, their individual holding power is small. Accordingly, the metal plate system is best for light to medium duty applications. It’s fine for most coffee table and end stand uses. It might be acceptable for the smallest and most gently-used dining table applications- but just barely. It is not suitable for seating or for beds.
Wood cleat systems
This is our strongest system yet.
The cleats are reproductions of classic Mid-Century Modern cleat systems used by the best designers of the period. They are beautiful quality, featuring crisply drilled mounting holes and delicate chamfered edges. They are intended to show, and can be used on more styles of furniture than just Mid-Century Modern!
You fasten a cleat to the underside of your furniture with simple wood screws. If you are using four legs, you need two cleats because each cleat has two inserts. You simply thread your ordered part, with the bolt projecting, into the threaded insert captured within the wooden cleat, and hand-tighten.
Like the metal plates, the first decision in wood cleat shopping is to decide on straight or angled legs. The next decision is how long a cleat to buy. The cleats need to be shorter than what you are affixing them to. And, they are generally oriented perpendicular to board orientation. So, for example, with a tabletop, they would be mounted the short way across the table, perpendicular to the way the top boards run. Choose a cleat length about six inches shorter than dining table width, and about four inches shorter than coffee table width.
These cleats work very well under case pieces, beds, seating and small dining tables, too. For larger tables, we recommend an apron- base system, wherein the aprons provide structural safety to the table. But for desks and small dining tables, the cleats are more than sufficient. Angled or straight, the legs are never going to strip out or work loose. Disassembly is a snap. And, they look really great!