Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gate Leg Table Project

Posted on 2/13/2011 07:12:00 PM by Frank

This project came about while I was building my bar(another project). I realized, what good is a nook to make drinks if there wasn't a place to sit down with people to drink them? Of course it may also be used as a dining table... but like I said, the bar brought up the question.

A gate leg table, is basically a morphed drop-leaf table. Rather than having a small permanent table with small "leaves" on either end to crate length, a gate leg table has a small center island with one or two really big leaves to create a large surface area. The term "gate leg" refers to the skinnier legs that support each leaf, because they swing out under the leaf like a gate to prop it up. With both leaves dropped down the center island's footprint is very compact and can be put away when there's no need for any table at all.

There are many variations on how to configure this type of table but for my purposes I chose a very small island with large leaves. It's just easier to store.

So lets begin with the materials. What? In case you haven't noticed this entry is a how to, or rather, how I built a gate leg table. You can make this however big or small you like so this time around I'll not focus on exact measurements.

- 1 sheet 3/4" single side finished birch plywood(standard 4X8, cut into 4 equal pieces)
- box of 2" screws
- box of 1 1/4" screws
- 4 surface hinges for leaves
- 4 brass plain cabinet hinges for gate legs
- 1 qt black latex paint
- 1 qt polycrylic clear finish(whatever sheen you like but I used satin)
- small paint roller and pan and small sponge brushes

- drill w/ 1/8" and 1/4" drill bits and a phillips head bit of course.
- saws. I used a power jigsaw and a manual Japanese pull saw. (wish I had a table saw...)
- some kind of powered sander with 100 and 300 grit papers. 300 grit sanding sponge for hand work.
- carpenter's square

If you were paying attention you'd remember that we have 4 equally cut pieces of ply from the single sheet. Take one piece and cut 4 equal planks for the center island. I want somewhere in the 8 1/2"in range if I remember correctly(probably not).

Now just screw those suckers together with the side sections sandwiched between the top and bottom. You want it that way so the sides can bear the load of peoples' drinks and elbows when the table is finished. And for the love of Bob remember to predrill your holes with the 1/8" bit so you don't go splitting ends. Make sure you get the finished sides on the outside. Now you roughly have a 4X4 cube for your island. Oh, did I mention this was meant to be pub height? Well I just did so there you go.

Now take one of the other pieces of ply and dry fit it over your square island thing. Make sure the siland is square as you do this. Trim it so the sides are flush to the sides of the island. Your going to need 2 of these so stack 2 pieces and cut them at the same time. This view is basically what you'll have with a leaf in the down position - except not laying down on the floor like that.

With your 2 leaves trimmed flip your island upside down and butt your leaves flush to the top of the island(remember we're upside down). Finished side down this time. Grab your 4 surface hinges and screw them in over where the leaf meets the island. Get the pin centered over the seam. Now you have your basic gate leg table without legs. YAY!

So now we need legs to hold up those leaves. measure the inside height of the island and translate that to you last piece of quarter sheet plywood. Mark out about 3" wide and cut 4 pieces. 2 will be for the outside legs and 2 will attached inside the island for the legs and hinges to attach to.

In hindsight, I should've made the gate legs like a 2 rung ladder but I skewed somewhere and... well I was forced to make it work. Really you should cut 6 of those out instead of 4^. You'll also cut the rungs as described in the next step.

You'll put together something like this(with 4 complete sides of course). Yeah... this just before I brain farted and rather than make things simple I sandwiched in 2 short legs between the 2 shorter pieces instead of just making a simple 2-rung ladder thing going. Guess I was thinking too hard there. But anyway, you do that and sort of ignore how my legs look.

That said, you'll have 2 complete legs that, when closed, will be half of the inside width of the island. Measure the 2 shorter "rungs" to acheive that length. The 2 remaining long pieces will be mounted in the island.

Like so-ish. I got excited and forgot to take pictures of the in-between steps. Pop those 2 long pieces in on either side, and using the completed gate legs, mount them in with screws so that the legs will fold completely flush with the front of the island and be  out of the way when the leaves are down. I can see you face but I know you'll get it! Take a look at this other angle with the leg in open position and hinges installed:

You may notice I had to notch out for the legs, but again, that was my brain farting. You don't have to do that if you followed my corrected advice.

EDIT: Well, fighting my urge to skip ahead some steps here is a view of a center support... painted.

...*cough*...So now it's time for us to paint! Pretty self explanatory here so just do it. It may be easier for you to take apart the leaves and paint them separate from the island. Slap on 2 coats of whatever color you choose and let dry overnight.


Make sure your paint coverage was even and coat again if not. If everything's ok you can start your clear coat. I used satin polycrilic and rolled on 4 or 5 coats. I had a sponge roller and that gave it a nice texture.

Last note: in the finished pictures you can see that I've added support beams inside the bottom of the island. They are the unpainted portions. This cleared up a bad wobble problem when the table was fully set up.

 Only 8 1/2" thick when collapsed.

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