I love collecting vintage household items. They’re a really fun way to add surprising and unique flourishes to home decor. Several months back, I acquired a small set of card catalog drawers. They’re something I want to keep in good condition, so I hemmed and hawed for a long time before finally selecting and adding the hairpin table legs. With the help of my dad (a seasoned home DIY’er and son of a woodworker) on a recent visit, we attached the table legs in no time. Read on for the best tips for modifying your own potentially fragile vintage items.
a small set of vintage card catalog drawers
4 hairpin style table legs
enough wood screws to attach your legs (make sure they’re all the same size and type)
drill & drill bits
wood glue (optional)
The first step is deciding how tall you want the table to be, and measure the height of your set of drawers. Subtract the height of your drawers from how tall you want your table to be to determine how tall your table legs should be*. I found the best prices and selection of the hairpin style legs I used here.
*total desired table height – height of card catalog = leg height
Begin constructing your table by removing all drawers from the card catalog, deciding on the placement of the legs, and marking the location. You can measure for precision or simply eyeball the best location, it’s up to you. My dad’s big tips for adding legs to card catalogs:
- Determine as best you can how thick the wood is that you’re drilling the screws into.
- Don’t use screws that are too long (this is where knowing how thick the wood is comes in).
- Don’t try to drill your screws in too close to the edge of the card catalog. If you accidentally screw them in at a slight angle, your screw could come out the outside of your card catalog, ruining its look.
- Also avoid drilling a screw directly into where two pieces of wood come together. You could end up accidentally damaging your card catalog by wedging it apart. We ended up placing my table legs slightly in from the front and back edges but flush with the sides, as you can see somewhat below.
Set the legs aside. Using a drill bit that’s smaller than the wood screws you’ll attach the legs with, drill pilot holes for each screw you’ll be using to attach the legs. This helps avoid slippage when you’re putting in a screw, and it helps avoid damaging the wood.
Place a leg over the pilot holes. (The hairpin legs are nice because you can see what you’re doing the whole time.) You can use a drill or handheld screwdriver to screw the legs to the card catalog. My dad preferred switching between the drill for the pilot holes and the handheld screwdriver since he opted not to drill all 12 pilot holes at once. He worked one leg at a time, so having to switch back and forth from a drill bit for the pilot holes to a screwdriver head for attaching the legs would have been impractical.
PS: If you find your legs getting loose down the road, carefully unscrew them a little bit, put a small dot of wood glue under the head of the screw, and screw it back in.
This tutorial was for a fairly straightforward project that many could figure out on their own. I hope sharing some tips from someone who knows their stuff, even on an easy project, is useful for you!