Have I Tweaked this Desk Frame? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 07-13-2016, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Have I Tweaked this Desk Frame?

Hello, first post here and already describing a problem. I've built a small desk for my daughter, and now find despite careful cutting and assembly the frame appears to be 'tweaked'.
I've used 2x3 for the main frame and legs, and good grade pine for the apron. The top is to be Birch plywood.
Of course the 2x3 isn't the best choice, but I carefully chose very straight pieces and avoided knots at the connection points. All pieces were cut on a power mitre saw, and squared it carefully before gluing/screwing.
But, as visible in the picture, the frame 'rocks' on a level surface, and requires nearly a 1/4" full shim to be stable. All measurements check out, the legs don't vary over +/-1/32", yet somehow I've built a twist into this thing.
At this point my only option seems to be installing 'leg levelers' or to the landfill.
What's the best guesses as to how I ended up with this issue?

Thanks much for the help!
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post #2 of 22 Old 07-13-2016, 09:37 PM
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Never ... never trust a floor as a "level surface". Unless you've moved this to several different areas and have the same corner higher than the others, you might not actually have a "crooked" table.

I know the concrete in my garage looks level, but there's a 1/4" undulation across the length.
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post #3 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 12:23 AM
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Since your top is flat, and the frame isn't extremely heavy, the problem might correct itself when you attach the top. When you screw the top to the frame I'd bet the frame will shift a little and become a bit flatter. But that's assuming your floor is flat as the previous post pointed out.
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post #4 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 02:11 AM
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I would get the top on it, then just trim a bit off the bottom of the legs as required to get it sitting solid. Before you do any cutting rotate the table around just to be sure it is not the floor that is out.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #5 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 02:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikechell View Post
Never ... never trust a floor as a "level surface". Unless you've moved this to several different areas and have the same corner higher than the others, you might not actually have a "crooked" table.

I know the concrete in my garage looks level, but there's a 1/4" undulation across the length.
I second this^^
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post #6 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 07:35 AM
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Don't "trim" any legs!

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I would get the top on it, then just trim a bit off the bottom of the legs as required to get it sitting solid. Before you do any cutting rotate the table around just to be sure it is not the floor that is out.

Yes, get the top on first. Then rotate the table 4 times on the location where it will be situated and see if the issue goes away. If not, it's much easier to add a small thin shim to correct the wobble than it is to start trimming legs, which never works out well. If, as you say, the legs are of equal length than my suspicion is the floor is not perfectly flat ... "level" is not part of this issue. Carpet glides can also be used to avoid chipping the edges of the legs when it is slid around.
One adjustable glide will solve any wobbling issues.

There is nothing more annoying than a wobbly table or desk. I carry carpenter's shims in my truck and when at a restaurant where the table is wobbly, I run out to the get and get a shim to fix the issue which I donate to the establishment. It prevents spilled drinks and other mishaps and everyone at the table is always grateful.:smile3:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #7 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 09:31 AM
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+10 on the 'don't trust the floor is level' -

I have spots in my shop I've checked with a 6 ft level and flashlight for flatness and level. outside of those areas, all bets are off.

and . . . with regard to leveling feet . . . don't trust the floor. when it is moved somewhere else, perhaps the floor won't be as levelly crooked as the last spot? leveling feet = thinking ahead . . .
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post #8 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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You guys are spot on! I got the top on late last night, and tried the table on several different orientations and areas. Slightest of wobble depending where placed. I'm a 'wobble freak' also at public tables, wondering how they can charge 5$ for a coffee and offer such poor tables, so when I deliver it to my daughter I'll take some 'levelers' or shims. Her place is a small converted carriage house, so the concrete floor likely will be dodgy.

Thanks again for all the help guys, much appreciated!
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post #9 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric72 View Post
You guys are spot on! I got the top on late last night, and tried the table on several different orientations and areas. Slightest of wobble depending where placed. I'm a 'wobble freak' also at public tables, wondering how they can charge 5$ for a coffee and offer such poor tables, so when I deliver it to my daughter I'll take some 'levelers' or shims. Her place is a small converted carriage house, so the concrete floor likely will be dodgy.

Thanks again for all the help guys, much appreciated!
Glad it worked out for you. Around here coffee shops supply paper shims, you just fold them up until you find the right thickness.:smile3:

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #10 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 02:49 PM
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It looks like you've done a pretty good job so far. Levelers on the legs won't be a big deal if they are indeed needed. Too nice for the dump.
Don't let your frustration get the best of you.
When you attach the top, you may find this makes a positive improvement to the overall levelness.
If you need to adjust the legs, remove no more than the thickness of a dime until you get the desired stability.
Good luck to you.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #11 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 06:13 PM
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It's always easier to add than remove

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It looks like you've done a pretty good job so far. Levelers on the legs won't be a big deal if they are indeed needed. Too nice for the dump.
Don't let your frustration get the best of you.
When you attach the top, you may find this makes a positive improvement to the overall levelness.
If you need to adjust the legs, remove no more than the thickness of a dime until you get the desired stability.
Good luck to you.
When you start removing thin amounts, which is not easily done accurately, you open a can of worms that can't be shut until they are all stuffed back in.... like herding cats. Adding thin shims is a great deal easier and the results are immediately apparent...too little, just right, or too much.

To find out how thick your shim should be, use a thin wedge and insert it until it stops. Mark the wedge's edge at that point and that will translate to how thick your shim should be. :smile3:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #12 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
When you start removing thin amounts, which is not easily done accurately, you open a can of worms that can't be shut until they are all stuffed back in.... like herding cats. Adding thin shims is a great deal easier and the results are immediately apparent...too little, just right, or too much.

To find out how thick your shim should be, use a thin wedge and insert it until it stops. Mark the wedge's edge at that point and that will translate to how thick your shim should be. :smile3:
There is a difference between an uneven floor and uneven legs.

That short leg you are shimming means that corner is too high, so with the desk sitting on a level floor a round pencil will roll on to the floor. Why torture a poor kid like that? :smile3:

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #13 of 22 Old 07-14-2016, 08:34 PM
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The legs are within 1/32" postred above ....

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There is a difference between an uneven floor and uneven legs.

That short leg you are shimming means that corner is too high, so with the desk sitting on a level floor a round pencil will roll on to the floor. Why torture a poor kid like that? :smile3:

So the legs are fine. An uneven floor is just about everywhere you want to place the thing. Just shim the "short" (not actually, but that's how it appears) leg and you're done. Torture?... this thread is torture!

Go to any low end restaurant and you will find matchbook covers, folded napkins, table knives and all sorts of fixes under the table legs.... at least those I frequent. Trying to guestimate how much to saw off a leg, which one and do it accurately... square to the surface is a challenge by even an experienced woodworker. I wouldn't start there if it were mine.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

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post #14 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 12:30 AM
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After several attempts to level the chairs by removing "a little" off the longest leg ... Bubba just had to make the table fit the chairs.
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post #15 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 12:35 PM
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there is an old chairmaker's trick for sawing off legs.

first your need a flat&level workbench.
two points make a line, three points i.e. legs "make a plane"
so -
set the chair on the workbench and find which leg is longest, move that leg over the edge of the workbench so the other three legs sit flat, mark the cut point of the too long leg.

this does not however ensure the top of a table (vs chair) will be level. a bit out of level on a chair is not the end of the world. for a table top, it's best to leave the legs a bit long, then use a level to set the top level with all four legs on the work surface using shims. legs with the least shim height are the longest; but with a smidge of foresight and extra length on the legs, use a block/strip (height to suit) to mark all four legs for snipping.
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post #16 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 12:53 PM
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this is all great, but ...

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Originally Posted by TomCT2 View Post
there is an old chairmaker's trick for sawing off legs.

first your need a flat & level workbench.
two points make a line, three points i.e. legs "make a plane"
so -
set the chair on the workbench and find which leg is longest, move that leg over the edge of the workbench so the other three legs sit flat, mark the cut point of the too long leg.

this does not however ensure the top of a table (vs chair) will be level. a bit out of level on a chair is not the end of the world. for a table top, it's best to leave the legs a bit long, then use a level to set the top level with all four legs on the work surface using shims. legs with the least shim height are the longest; but with a smidge of foresight and extra length on the legs, use a block/strip (height to suit) to mark all four legs for snipping.

That's a cool trick, but unless the surface on which the table or desk will "live" is flat, but not necessarily level, it's all moot and you have to shim the thing to keep it from rocking. Shimming can be done invisibly by using a square of material that is slightly smaller than the leg itself... so it's hidden. Adjustable leg glides will solve most rocking issues, but they may not fit the "look" of the piece.

My trick is to set the table in place and slip a wedge under the leg with the most gap. Mark the shim where it's stops on the edge and that's how thick your square shim should be. Use a dab of glue or double sided tape and you are done. :smile3:

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)

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post #17 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 01:24 PM
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Like it or not part of being a good woodworker is to be able to hide your mistakes and still have the piece looking like a professional made it.

My argument here is there is a difference between having a table with uneven legs and setting a table on an uneven floor.

Nobody in their right mind would trim a table with even legs to sit on an unlevel floor, you would shim it so the shim could be removed later if the table was moved to another location.

However if you are building a table and the legs don't come out even the invisible fix is to trim the legs so the table top sits level on a level surface.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #18 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 02:26 PM
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You can also use an area rug!
If your table is sitting on an area rug, the rug will "auto-shim" any unevenness of the legs!
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post #19 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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You can also use an area rug!
If your table is sitting on an area rug, the rug will "auto-shim" any unevenness of the legs!
I'd be leery of trying to shave these table legs, but the above posts have some great methods to do it. And after the top was secured in place, that 'tweak', if it did exist seems to have gone away.

When I deliver this to her, I'll have some legs available just in case, or an area rug as suggested above.

The reality is, especially regarding shaving leg length, it won't buy me lunch insisting that the wobble 'is her floor' and not 'my carpentry'! And I can easily imagine the next 'cute dump' she finds will present new floor/desk wobble problems again, so having levelers - if needed of course, might adjust for future issues.

Great stuff on this forum! I'm penciling another small project and am starting to think of a few tools I'll need. The shop is small - budget too, but I'm going to have to expand soon. As long as I don't look at examples on My Photos of the members here I'll be fine. Those can get intimidating!
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post #20 of 22 Old 07-15-2016, 04:39 PM
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Eric - go to Home Depot. get a gander at all the pads/feet/etc available "off the rack"

thin ones, thick ones, thicker ones.
soft ones, hard ones, etc etc etc

in real life, this is not a problem.
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