Ideas for How to Make a Table Base

Who says a tabletop has to rest on discreet identical legs -- or any legs at all? An unorthodox table base could be the decor star in your room.

A table base may be the most forgettable utilitarian support for a flat surface, but you can make one that's clever and enhances your decor. Look for materials to use unconventionally for dining, sofa and occasional tables. Your own design, composed of found objects, might end up as a functional piece of primitive art.

3-Legged Brace

Salvage a wood barrel top or any small wood tabletop and hunt for mismatched turned wood legs in lumber stores, salvage yards or curbside discards at the end of the month when people move. Select three legs as different from each other as possible and trim them so they evenly support the wood top, using angled Waddell plates to attach the legs at a slant to the table. The effect is something like a quirky camp stool. If the legs are stained or enamel-painted different colors, the table is playful enough for a nursery or inventive enough for an eclectic, contemporary living room.

Plumb Lines

Reclaimed wood from an old dock or barn makes a coffee table with character -- industrial character when the legs are plumbing pipe. Use a mounting flange at the end of each piece of pipe for a stable "foot." Keep as much of the distressed character and weathering on the wood as possible, but do sand away splinters and rough spots for safety and comfort. Copper pipe is softer and easy to cut to size to build a base for lighter wood or even a glass top. Create a geometric Himmel orb base from identical lengths of copper pipe and heavy-duty nylon string and attach it to the tabletop with copper pipe hangers and short screws.

Booked Up

You can't add another bookcase to your tiny digs, but the hardcovers are threatening to get you a spot on the TV show Hoarders. Simple solution: Neatly stack those timeless tomes into a solid base next to your bed. Make a base the height of the mattress to support a painted piece of 3/4-inch plywood, beveled glass or Lucite that exactly matches the dimensions of the top surface of the stacked books. Then strap the whole "book box" together. By strapping the books and tabletop securely into a rectangular box shape with wide leather belts from the closet or the thrift store, the books are stored, and the table is stable enough to hold a small lamp and the book you are reading in bed. Un-strap the base and change out volumes whenever the mood strikes. This idea works just as well for end tables in the living room and a table next to your favorite reading chair in the library.

Pedals and Treadles

Old-fashioned sewing machines were set into elaborate scrolled iron bases with foot pedal bars and large flywheels that are tailor-made for a makeover. Find a treadle base and fit a top to it for a small dining table that tucks into an alcove and is as stable as a boulder. The bases are heavy, so position yours approximately where you will want it before the final assembly. Just screw the top to the base from below, using screws short enough to avoid piercing the surface of the tabletop. To align with your decor, you can strip the metal base, paint it with colored enamel, faux upgrade it with metallic paint, or distress and age it with whitewashing or crackle glaze.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .