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I have an old desk which must have been held together mostly by strength of will, since when we disassembled it for a move, we found that all of the cam bolts were sat in crumbled holes in the chip board.

I kept all of the bolts, hoping to refit them, but few of the holes have enough strength to take the bolts being screwed back into them.

existing cam bolts

I have been trying to think of ways to resurrect this desk, and so far have come up with several options.

  1. Fit the bolts back into their original positions using glue or epoxy resin to fill in the missing chipboard.
    • I have no idea what sort of glue/resin would be suitable or whether it would be strong enough.
      • If I go for this option, what do I need to look for in a glue/epoxy?
  2. Drill out new holes for the cam bolts.
    • It looks like I would have to be very careful to get the position correct, and then be very careful to drill the holes perfectly square.
  3. Replace the cam bolts with furniture bolts and barrel nuts.
    • This will mean unsightly bolt heads on the desk sides and worktop. enter image description here
  4. Just glue the desk back together.
    • This would mean that I wouldn't be able to take it apart again, so was discounted as an option.

These are all of the options I can see for the moment, but are there any other options I should consider?

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Dig out the bad/loose stuff. Fill with an epoxy based filler (such as Bondo). Redrill the holes. Reinsert the cam bolts.

Product references are for illustration only and not an endorsement
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Toss the cams and use good quality wood glue. Use clamps to hold the pieces together until the glue cures and use screws with an aggressive coarse thread.

enter image description here

You will need to drill pilot holes for the screws, and you will never be able to disassemble, but once the particle board is damaged as described it is very difficult to repair.

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    Sorry, I should have made it clear that I do actually want to be able to take the desk apart again in the future. – Mark Booth Oct 3 '14 at 13:56
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Drilling out the holes is easier than it sounds if you can live with holes on the outside of your furniture. Just dry-fit the pieces together and drill new holes for the screws from the outside. Make sure you move away from the old crumbled holes. Then you can measure and drill for the cam hole, using a fat drill bit instead of a spade bit because the point on the spade will go all the way through the surface of the desk.

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