While it may seem like I’ve been primarily doing really easy projects and complaining a lot about my bedroom makeover, I’ve actually been making progress behind the scenes on some of the major pieces that I’ll need to finish the room. Top of my list has been new bedside tables, because I know these will be pretty prominent and will set the tone for the rest of the space.
But don’t get too excited… I don’t have new bedside tables to share today. (Hopefully next week!) Instead, I want to spread some knowledge about a subject that until very recently was completely foreign to me: hanger bolts.
If you had asked me last month what a hanger bolt is, I like to think that I would have correctly associated the concept with construction/home improvement (via the word “bolt”), but there is also a chance that I would have thought it had something to do with airplanes. I’ve come a long way since then.
See, in updating the bedside tables that I plan to use in the bedroom, I decided to spring for some nice wood mid-century legs from tablelegs.com. I LOVE them, but they were definitely a splurge since they’re a lot more than the basic ones from Home Depot that I usually get. They also sell the metal plates to attach the legs to whatever you’re building… and here is where the story starts going wrong. You can get just the attachment hardware for $4.25, or you can pay a bit extra and have them install the bolt into the leg for you for a total of $6.95. I read this and thought, Hah! Pay someone to screw in screws for me? What a racket! This is a DIY blog, after all!
When the legs and hardware arrived, I quickly realized that this would be a more complicated task than I had bargained for. The legs were (obviously) solid wood, and the weird metal things they came with were (obviously) pretty big. I had to use google to figure out that they were called “hanger bolts.” I knew it would take a bit of effort to get them correctly installed in the legs.
This situation brings us back to a saying that Sage and I use a lot when coaching each other though design decisions: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That brilliant saying doesn’t just pertain to putting animals on things, distressed chevron finishes, or using thrifted cutlery to decorate your home. It is also about the things that you are perfectly capable of doing, but are just not worth your time for the money they save. We’re all short on time, and spending a couple of hours figuring out how to install hanger bolts is not how I should have been spending my time this weekend. So if you’re buying legs from this site, don’t make the same mistake I did: pay the $1.50 and have them arrive at your door with the hanger bolts installed.
But if you do end up in this situation (or if you’re trying to make a leg out of something else), it’s really not that bad. After a little internet research, I suddenly knew a lot more about hanger bolts. They are essentially a screw attached to a bolt, and they’re great for screwing into a wall or ceiling and then attaching stuff to. They are not hard to install, but are a bit of a pain.
Most of the stuff you’ll need is stuff that you’d have around (pliers, drill, etc.), but you will also need a pair of nuts that fits on the machine-thread side of the hanger bolt.
To start, we drilled holes in the legs for the hanger bolts to fit in. This was definitely a two-person job, because there is no way I would have been able to hold the legs sturdy while also getting the drill to be to be perfectly straight.
I used a couple different drill bits getting progressively larger.
Next, we threaded the two nuts onto the hanger bolt, keeping them right next to each other.
We then used pliers to tighten them against each other, so that the tension locked them in place.
You can then screw these into the legs manually using pliers on the upper nut (which is held in place by the lower one).
OR, you can use something called a “nut driver,” which is made for exactly this purpose.
I picked up a driver kit (affiliate link – read our policies) for my drill which included a few different sizes of nut drivers to make this step a little easier, and because my new friend from work who supposedly knows stuff about construction says that I’ll “use them all the time.” Since I didn’t even know they existed a couple weeks ago, I find that hard to believe.
Still, I kind of like buying tools so I wasn’t that hard to convince.
With the nut driver, it was insanely easy to install the hanger bolt.
To remove the nuts, just loosen the top one first with pliers (I found needle-nose pliers far easiest to use for this step) and they easily come right off.
Just kidding. The bolt was as far in as we could get it given the width of the two nuts, but it was still too far out for the metal plates that I would be using.
I feel like some gap wouldn’t show, but this seemed pretty excessive.
The helpful guys at Home Depot suggested specialty nuts that are about half the width of regular nuts, but said I would need to get those from a specialty store or an auto-mechanic. Can that really be true? Rather than pursue the case, I performed a high-risk maneuver: I just locked the drill down directly onto the hanger bolt, tightened it as much as possible, and gave it one quick pulse.
It did strip the threads a little bit, but not so badly that it won’t thread into the installation plates. This definitely wouldn’t work for installing the full hanger bolt but it seemed to do the trick to just get it in a little bit farther.
That’s what I’m calling close enough! (Updated to add – if that isn’t close enough for you, and you have access to a dremel, try this method to finish it off.)
While I definitely would have preferred to use my time differently this weekend, I am sort of glad to have this basic skill. And the bright side is, I can now make anything I want into a table leg!
I’m looking forward to showing off the real final product (my bedside tables)… just as soon as I finish them.