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We bought a 5' diameter table many years ago from a Macy's warehouse sale.

It's a 1" thick wood table top screwed to a cast iron leg/ base.

When we bought it, it had a slight warp about 2/3s from one edge that went all the way through. The wood was weak there (hence being on sale).

Well, after 10 year of MN humid summers and dry winters and a cross-country move in a truck, it finally split.

It's a nice enough table that I'd like to repair it, though. What would be the proper way to do this?

The table needs to be sanded and refinished anyways (10 years of kids abusing it) so I don't mind getting a bit rough with the thing.

My thoughts:

  • cut about 1/2" off from each side of the split.
  • find a 1" x 1" strip of some nice hardwood (perhaps a nice contrasting color--since I can't likely match it exactly, I might as well make it a design 'feature')
  • join the two halves of the table to this strip via a connection method (glue + mechanical).

So far so good? If that sounds good, my main question is what would the best connection method be? Biscuits? Dowels? Pocket Screws? Other ideas?

I'd then sand the whole thing down, refinish, and re-attach to the table legs.

Thoughts? Any better ideas?

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2 Answers 2

Dowels are probably your best bet for this fix because the tool cost is much lower for the case that you need to purchase tools to do this repair. The cost of a doweling jig is much lower than a biscuit cutter. Drilling the dowel holes is easily accomplished with an electric drill.

If you end up with just a one inch wide repair strip added in then I would just drill the dowel holes right through the strip and into the original material on each side. Do check your table top pieces for overall flatness after you separate the two sides from the split. Warped lumber often develops a curvature that spans a greater distance than just one inch. You'll need to take this into account when you decide to start trimming away the split edges.

With properly jointed surfaces on the two trimmed edges and the hardwood accent piece the dowels and glue should be plenty strong to hold things together.

You may want to cut the accent piece just a small bit longer than the amount needed and then trim and sand it to the existing round table edges after the gluing is done. This will give you the greatest opportunity blend the edge of the table to the nicest fit and look.

I see some challenge in clamping the round table to get good tight glue joints. You may need to fabricate some jigs to help provide a place to engage your clamps across the width of the table. The sketch below shows one idea of how to do this. Some flat boards about 4 -> 5 inches wide can have some blocks glued and screwed on the ends that will provide a place to engage the clamps.

enter image description here

I have shown the blocks somewhat offset from where they would actually be attached to the boards so that you can see the nature of how they would fit to the contour of the table edge. Long bar clamps or pipe clamps would be spanned across the table top at the overhang of these boards as shown in the next picture.

enter image description here

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Thanks, Michael! In terms of strength, would dowels and biscuits be comparable? Good point on the Dowels being a lot cheaper up front, though. I have everything but the jig and I doubt that's a whole lot. As for clamping, what do you think of ratchet straps in an 'X' pattern? –  DA01 Nov 5 '12 at 9:52
    
The ratchet straps in an X pattern would certainly not be suitable for gluing up an assembly with biscuits!! From many years of practical experience I would say that you definately want clamping that is perpendicular to the glue joints. –  Michael Karas Nov 5 '12 at 9:57
    
The 1" thickness of the table top will give most of its strength right in the glue joint itself. Dowels allow greater penetration than biscuits and so can provide greater strength but biscuits would also provide plenty of strength too. Both systems provide surface alignment of the pieces being glued. Biscuits do not provide lateral alignment and thus the reason I suggest the use of dowels. You don't want is to get the thing all clamped up and find that your two table halves had shifted sidewise by a quarter of an inch. Long glue joints are slippery and can move around in the clamping process. –  Michael Karas Nov 5 '12 at 10:06
    
One other thing. If you use pipe clamps that are black iron pipe do cut some pieces of poly plastic and lay over the area where the pipe clamp comes across the glue joints. The wet glue can telescope the black pipe finish into the wood and create a stain in the wood. –  Michael Karas Nov 5 '12 at 10:09
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More important than the dowels is the fit of the joint. The pieces of wood should go together with no gap anywhere before gluing. If the three pieces of wood fit well then good quality wood glue and clamping will produce a joint as strong as solid wood. The purpose of dowels or biscuits is to help keep the joint aligned while clamping. This is important, though, because you have a lot to worry about when clamping up and the dowels will make it much simpler. Work out your clamping system thoroughly before beginning glue up. Try to keep the alignment of the surfaces close because sanding can take a long time and producing a flat surface can be tricky if you have a lot of material to remove.

Make sure the joint fits well, that is the most important thing.

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