I have already removed the cam lock (the round piece that locks it in place).

What I am left with is two pieces of wood that are attached by the cam screw. Simple hand pulling has not pulled them apart

What is the best way to pry them apart?

Cam Screw

  • 2
    Sometimes the cam is the main connection but there are other screwed or nailed connections or even glue used as well. Apr 16, 2018 at 21:48
  • 1
    Try to unscrew the screw with a pliers - then see if that will free it up - if that will not do it - you are probably looking at pieces that are also glued together .
    – Ken
    Apr 16, 2018 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


There is a clearance hole for the screw portion. The pieces slide together and it is the cam that locks it. There may also be some dowels or metal pins for additional strength. If it won't come apart, something is binding (unless the pieces or dowels were glued). Try this:

  • Stick something into the bottom of the cam hole to protect the MDF, then use a large screw driver between that and the screw head for leverage to push it up.

    There are likely several cam locks, plus potentially some dowels; the pieces will need to remain square with each other to separate them. You won't be able to separate them by pushing on just one screw. Put pressure on one screw to try to break apart what's binding them. Then do the same on the other side. The idea is to separate the pieces as evenly as possible. If you jack up just one side, everything will bind. Once you get it started, it will become easier to pull them apart.

  • If you can create even a small gap in one spot, push a piece of sheet metal into the gap (if you don't have any laying around, cut it out of a soda can). Any place you can create a gap, add a piece of sheet metal there. That will maintain some tension while you work on another spot. But don't stick a bunch of shims in just one spot; keep it even across the joint.

    If you have wood or plastic shims, use those instead of the sheet metal. Separate the pieces enough to get the tip of a shim between them. Try to get a shim in the same location at both inside and outside the joint so you don't push the pieces out of perpendicular. Once you get shims started all along the joint, gradually and evenly tap them into the joint to push the pieces apart.

  • Once you get a little gap between the pieces, if they are still hard to pull apart, use a pry bar between the pieces for extra leverage, working it in different spots across the joint, a little at a time. Don't use so much pressure that you damage the pieces.

  • It may also help to whack the underside of the top with a rubber mallet along the joint (more useful if you can lay the unit on its back so gravity isn't working against you). In fact, you might want to start with this as a first step. If you don't have a soft mallet, protect the underside of the top with a board and whack the board with a hammer. Don't use excessive force. If it's glued, a big enough hammer and enough force will probably separate the pieces, but the result won't be pretty.

If none of the above budges the pieces, it probably means that glue was used. In that case, you aren't likely to separate the pieces without hunks of MDF breaking off.

  • 1
    All that can work, but I'd just whack it with a mallet. (Protect the finish surfaces with a hunk of scrap.) This'll break it apart, even if it was glued. Apr 17, 2018 at 4:00
  • 1
    @AloysiusDefenestrate, and if that doesn't work, just get a bigger hammer. :-) Yeah, probably a good first step to try.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 17, 2018 at 4:05

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