The world of extendable dining tables

The world of extendable dining tables

Many of us have memories of Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house, and ours, like many, centered around the dinner table. Common was retrieving the table leaves and carefully putting them in place so we could fit the entire family.

Our Grandmother’s table was very nice – English Oak, with an inlaid pattern all around the edge. The leaves matched, too, so when they put the leaves in the table top and closed it back, you couldn’t even tell there was a seam in the surface. And, then, of course, we would have to cover them and put them away carefully, heaven forbid they get scratched!

If you’re planning on getting your hands on one that’s not the only kind of extendable dining table! Here is a little more information about the choices you may have.

Drop-in Leaves

This is the type that you’ll find the most often, in larger dining tables, probably not as fancy as pictured above though. The leaves, when not in use, are stored in a hallway closet or some other out-of-the-way place. There is sometimes a simple system of gears under the table that you release. It takes 2 people to pull on opposite ends of the table to separate the 2 halves. You pull it apart as far as you need to, and drop the leaves in the gap. Grandma’s was a really big table – she had 4 leaves, and would use them all at holidays. When the leaves were out, and the table was closed, it was only about 6 feet long.

Lever-Leaf Tables

A lever-leaf table usually won’t be as big as the drop-in leaves, but it can make a pretty significant dining area. These work a lot like the old typewriting desks with which you may be familiar. You pull the surface out from under the table top, and a spring mechanism pops it into place. To release the extension, you pull and lift, and it releases the spring. You then lower the extension, and it drops and swings back beneath the table top, out of site. This type of extension can make the table twice as long as usual.

Drop-Leaf or Butterfly Tables

These are pretty tables usually used as side tables in a hallway or living room. That’s because it is only about a foot wide, once the sides are dropped. This type of folding dining table is easy enough to use. Most of them have a piano hinge under each of the leaves. You lift the side up, and swing a gate-leg out to support the flap you’ve just raised. You do this on each side, and you have a pretty decent little dining or card table. These are really useful in small apartments and efficiency units that don’t have a dining area. You can put it behind a sofa or chair to serve as a sofa table, with decorations, and then raise the side (or both sides) for dining.

Quality Extending Tables

Regardless of which style of extending dining table you choose, you need to look for quality construction. It can be really aggravating to set down a glass, only to see it tip on a sloped surface. So, here are some things to look for:

  • The leaves/sides should be at the same height as the rest of the table.
  • The extensions, especially with the lever-leaf and the drop-leaf, should not slope. The supporting mechanism needs to be sufficient to hold the surface level.
  • The leaves should match the rest of the table. Oak tables should have oak leaves, maple tables should have maple leaves, etc. The color of stain should also match.
  • There should be no gap between the table top and the leaves or sides. This may indicate that some of the support mechanisms are malfunctioning. It could also mean that this is not the right insert for that particular table.
  • Make sure you can sit comfortable at the table. For instance, a drop-leaf or butterfly table can’t be used for dining unless the side is raised, because the side of the table blocks leg space. Also, when the side is raised, make sure there is enough leg space around the gate-leg. A Lever-leaf table may be too close to your legs when you’re sitting at the table.

Whichever table you choose, you can expect to have many years of great family moments. So cook that meal, or get out that jigsaw puzzle.

Author Bio

Josh enjoys improving his writing skills and is on his way to becoming a full fledged blogger (when he gets the time). He is currently working part time for and in his spare time he writes.

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