Lill's Quilt Rack: Part VII, Joining the Legs to the Shelf

With the joints cut so the legs now fit together, I was left with two (2) dry fit sides. Because I’d left the legs long when cutting them out my next step was to cut them all even at the bottom. I wouldn't be able to set the shelf joints until this was done.

The laser let me mark the bottom of each leg evenly.

After thinking about how to mark all the legs so that their bottoms were even with each other and level, I settled on my laser level.

I began by leveling my bench so that I could shoot the level from two locations and have them be even. Then I dry assembled the sides. I clamped the sides against each other, even at the top. Finally I set the laser to mark a level line across all of the legs in a location near the bottom. As with most of the measurements for the quilt rack the exact location of the line wasn’t critical. As long as it was level and even on all the legs it would work.

I marked V's based on the laser. Then connected them with a ruler.

With the laser marking one (1) side of the legs I took a pencil and marked either end of the laser line on each leg with a V mark. Then, I moved the level and marked the other side. I later realized this wasn't necessary and I could have gotten away with only marking one side.

Turning off the laser, I dissembled the sides and paired the legs (front-to-front, middle-to-middle and back-to-back). Again setting the legs even at their tops I taped the pairs of legs together in a few locations using blue tape.

Making sure they're even at the top, the front legs are ready to be cut.

Then I used a ruler to connect the V marks into a line and took the leg pairs to the miter saw. I went one pair at a time, carefully setting up the saw angle on the line. This worked well and I soon had six (6) legs with flat bases. It was then back to the bench to re-dry assemble one (1) side.

On the now flat leg bottoms I was able to balance the side. I took one of the cutoffs I had left over from trimming the shelf to size earlier and determined the shelf location by eye. I clamped the cutoff where I thought the shelf should go, stood back to consider its location. After doing this two (2) or three (3) times I found I was happy with the shelf location.

Test fitting the shelf location.

Using a pencil, I marked the top and bottom of the cutoff on each leg. Then I pulled the side apart and used a small square to transfer those marks onto the front and back of each leg. Re-pairing the legs, I was able to transfer those marks to the front and back of the matching leg and then finally by connecting those lines on the front and back I had the joints marked out on all six (6) legs.

The next part of laying out the joint was what I found hardest of this project – determining how deep to make each joint. After considering this for a while, I began by sketching the relative leg locations on piece of graph paper, paying special attention to the leg offsets relative to each other. It is the offsets which will determine the depth of each joint in the shelf.

The first drawing.

Once this first drawing was done, I used it to calculate a second drawing. On the second I marked and labeled the cuts on the shelf and the legs. I split the difference between the shelf and legs, removing some material from each. I also made the cuts in the legs deeper at the front and back edges where appropriate so that the after they were rounded over the joint would still be hidden.

The second drawing.

Returning to the legs, I re-marked the joints with a knife, scoring the surface of the legs as I had with the leg-to-leg joinery. I then used a router to rough out the joints to full depth and almost full with. A chisel make quick work of cleaning up the sides and making the notches at the front and back.

The shelf joint in one of the front legs (typical).

Dry assembling the legs for the umpteenth time, I fit the shelf cutoff in the joints in order to confirm the fit. Assured that I had cut the legs properly, I slid the actual shelf in and used a sharp pencil to mark out the shelf joints directly off of the legs on one side. Measuring those joints, I transferred them to the other side of the shelf for the matching leg set.

Similar to the other joints, I scored the lines with a knife and removed the material with a chisel. After the first joint it occurred to me that I could cut the sides with a saw to make it much easier to chisel and I did the rest in this manner.


It was only after I’d cut all four leg joints in the shelf and dry fit the sides that I realized I had cut them all ½” deep. Though my drawing clearly showed that the front leg joints were only to be ¼” deep, I failed to look at the drawing when marking the depth and seriously over-cut the front leg joints.

Luckily I had the shelf cutoffs. I milled one to be ¼” wide and glued it into the front leg joints. This was functionally fine, tough the resulting patch was much more visible than I would have liked.

All better (almost).

Next time, it will finally be time to think about the cross pieces the quilts will actually hang on. Until then, you can catch up on all of the Lill's Quilt Rack posts here.

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