Draw leaf tables (Dutch Pull Outs, too) – more about how they work

So I’ve been compulsively obsessing about draw leaf tables.  This is one of the problems about getting older.  Once you get something in your mind, you can’t get it out.  Of course, if you want to remember something, you can’t.  But that’s another story and I don’t want to scare off younger readers.

I’ve been trying to find out all I can about Draw Leaf of Dutch Pull Out tables.  Surprisingly, after a lot of years in the business, I’ve never built one.  But they just make such good sense.  There’s a lot of stuff out there on the “Net”.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of pictures of 17th century English and Dutch Masterpieces and their modern variants.  There are videos of guys opening and closing their newest project table with a “snap”.  But information about the actual calculation of runner tapers, lengths, etc. is pretty sparse.

Whenever I’ve had difficulty gathering specific information about practice, I’ve found it useful to just start looking for diagrams and illustrations.  It always seems that if I simply immerse myself in the available, pictorial information, somehow, I wind up understanding what’s going on.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  This research takes a lot of time.  Lucky me, the retiree.  I thought it might be helpful to share some of the stuff I’ve come up with so far.

A caveat.  If I’m posting information that is sacred, secret or somehow guarded by this country’s laws (or by some other governing agency), I apologize.  Remember, I’m not making a dime here and, if nothing else, you’re getting free publicity.

One of the best illustrations I’ve found is the work of a miniaturist.  So much of the work these guys do is simply incredible:



Here’s a shot of a small table by a very good custom furniture builder:



This is an illustration from a Fine Woodworking project by Tage Frid about a contemporary draw leaf table.  It shows the logic of the tapered runners:

Tage Frid articleA pseudo Elizabethan model from “Modern Cabinet Work” by Wells and Hooper, 1922:

Modern Cabinet Work - Wells and Hooper


From Bill Hylton’s excellent book “Illustrated Cabinetmaking” is an update of Tage Frid’s original project from Fine Woodworking:

Illustrated Cabinetmaking - Bill Hylton


If you’d like to include a draw leaf on your break front or step back, here’s a plan from “Specialized Joinery”, an Algrove Classic Reprint.



Sylvain, a fellow woodworker from Belgium alerted me to the fact that IKEA sells several draw leaf tables and there is an excellent PDF on their website that shows a slightly more modern approach to the mechanism.  http://www.ikea.com/be/fr/assembly_instructions/bjursta-table-extensible__AA-236887-10_pub.PDF

Glen Huey and the fine folks at Popular Woodworking have made available plans for a very nice little draw leaf gaming table, that Glen built a few years back, on 3d Warehouse  https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=a2dbd26e8a382509738e43095496b061

And if this isn’t enough information for you, Tommy Mac and his trusty sidekick built a draw leaf pub table during Season 4, eh eh eh eh …Not much on detail, but it’s a good start.

This is not the pub table…





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8 Comments on “Draw leaf tables (Dutch Pull Outs, too) – more about how they work”

  1. Sylvain Says:

    You will notice that the center stretcher and stop strips shown on Bill Hylton’s model do not exist on the Elizabethan table. In fact with such an oak dining table, the main top is heavy enough to keep everything in place. It is even an advantage when you move because you can take the two extensions completely out which makes the table much lighter. ( I have seen it). If you unscrew the two bolts you can even transport the main top separately. The two bolts prevent rotation of the main top and the nuts give and added security if a heavy weight was put on an extension. The nuts must allow vertical movement of the main top while the draw leaf is moved.

  2. Pauline Says:

    I have one of these, most simple design, based wholly on gravity.. the only metal is leg corner brackets so that no leg cross bars are needed. The main and leaf top pieces lift out anytime for moving or storing.
    If you want design details I could photo and measure the pieces for you.. but maybe you have enough info by now.
    Loved your article !

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Thanks Pauline. I’ll keep you on the “consultant” list. I want to build a new dining room table this summer. But I’ve given up on schedules. I’m very comfortable drifting where the current will take me. Again, thanks for your interest.

  3. Metteke VandenBout Says:

    Looking for a small square table (28-30inch sq.) that will extend to seat 6-8 people. Like the Dutch pull out style. The height 30.”

    • Jim Bryant Says:

      Can you help me identify a draw leaf table? It has cabriole legs with whorl feet (also known as knurl toes). If you will email me your email address, I will send you some photographs. It is about 48″ by 36″. I want to sell it but wish to be accurate about its description. Thanks for any help that you might be able to provide.

      • D.B. Laney Says:

        Hi Jim. My guess is what you’re describing would probably be a scroll footed cabriole leg or some variant thereof. In my experience, scroll feet are generally associated with heavily carved furniture more commonly seen on the Continent and (to a lesser degree) with some patterns of English Chippendale. Variants can be seen in some Empire and American Federal furniture. Occasionally this style foot will turn up with an acanthus carving. I’ve also heard this style referred to as a volute foot. This style is somewhat out of my “wheelhouse” as I tend to concentrate on American and British period stuff. Some key search terms that might help you get a little more information would include: scroll foot, acanthus foot, volute foot and baroque draw leaf table. Good luck on your “quest”. If I can be of any additional help, let me know.

        You may want to approach a reputable period antique dealer. Many of them have an online presence. That said, I think you’ll find them reluctant to discuss pricing without seeing the table. However, you may find them more than happy discuss style and history with you.

  4. Adam Meistrell Says:

    How do I know the correct size for the runners? and the correct angle? The table I am building is approx 40″w x 60″l with leaves of approx 40″ x 24″.

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      There’s no easy answer in my experience. Species, grain orientation, section height all play a big role in sizing the supports. Your best bet is to do some testing. You can build a mock-up on some scrap plywood to get the angles right and you can do some actual deflection testing with a known weight. You can stiffen stock considerable by simply ripping it and gluing it back together, thereby creating a rudimentary “lam-beam”. Having extensions that “bounce” when your guests sit down to dinner is embarrassing, to say the least. Testing is very worthwhile.

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