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I need to repair the legs on my dinging room table. The joint is coming loose. I've included pictures, instead of trying to explain the situation.

The first picture is a picture of the leg. The next three are pictures of the joint that I need to repair.

The wood should be flush, right up against the two pieces, but there is a 1/16th inch gap. The gap can be close pretty easily by applying pressure.

I was considering gluing it with carpentry glue. Or even putting some small screws that would attach the leg to the middle piece.

Here are the pictures: http://imgur.com/a/OoVcf#0

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    I beg to differ with the notion of putting screws in a joint of this type. The small diameter of the screws and the forces that will be applied in this are will blow a screw out in a moments notice, rendering the joint almost irreparable. Complete bonding with proper prep and a good glue like alphatic resin (yellow) glue and clamping procedures is what will make this joint last. – Jack Nov 3 '14 at 4:27
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I think your plan is doable with a little tweaking. Here's a list of some things to watch out for.

  1. Before assembly you'll need to thoroughly clean the old glue off the surfaces of the joint paying particular attention to the face grain areas (end grain offers little strength to a joint). You don't need to get down to bare wood but all of the crusty bits have to go as they will both impede the joint from coming together and inhibit the new glue's ability to form a bond. Be careful not to round off any corners or your joints will look sloppy.
  2. Your biggest challenge is going to be applying good clamp pressure to such an irregular shape. One trick is to temporarily glue on clamp blocks but as this is a finished piece I wouldn't recommend it because it might damage your finish. Your best bet may be to apply a few small, strategically located dots of an aerosol activated cyanoacrylate glue in addition to your yellow glue. Squeeze the joint together by hand and when you've it the way you want it, hit it with the aerosol and the super glue will hold the joint together while the yellow glue goes off. Maybe have an extra set of hands present to run the spray can, and work quickly because with or without the accelerant the super will go off in only a few minutes.
  3. If you're feeling that the joint needs some mechanical strength, instead of screws use pegs. The screws will most likely fracture the extremely short grain on the edges of the joint, and because the screws can't go all the way through you won't get much strength out of them anyway. Pegs (while offering a pleasantly traditional look) will provide a lot of strength, and offer an alternate fix to the clamping problem in the form of what's called draw boring. It's kind of a lot to go into so I'll just provide this link. Good Luck!
  • +1 for the link to the description of the drawbore technique, very nice and thank you. – Jimmy Fix-it Nov 3 '14 at 3:56
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Since the joint has completely failed, the joint needs to be completely and carefully disassembled. This should be possible since the surfaces on each part is not aligned anymore, although it looks like a portion still may be glued tight. From what it looks like, it still should come apart. Just as mentioned in another answer, all remnants of glue needs to be meticulously removed being careful to remove the glue only and NO wood. This will particularly difficult at the edges. I use an incredibly sharp paint scraper for this, for the large open flats but the surfaces inside the dado where the working space is only about 1/4" to 3/8" wide, a sharp broad wood chisel may be an option to use in this tight space. A custom made scraper would be the best, and a file or rasp kept absolutely flat would be my last choice. After all joints are cleaned of old glue, (by the way, it is needed to be cleaned, because the old glue is what failed, if it stays, it will fail again) assemble the part dry, t be certain the mounting holes are in the same place as they once were before it broke. Do this on a piece of plywood on sawhorses for example or at least elevated above another surface so it will help in a future step I will describe later. Once laid out on the plywood, together as if it is not broken locate blocks of wood and 3 holes as I have marked up your picture here. enter image description here

Take the time to set all the wedges and tweak their placement to get the joint drawn tight. When it is to your satisfaction, and the mounting points match precisely what the other half needs, add more blocks in key areas if you like to pinpoint easier to get critical alignment. Two places I would use are the 2 ends, the bottom of the leg and the part that attaches to the back. All that done you are ready to glue. Mark all locations where the wedges were at, how deep they were set. Use a brush, I use a small brush like the plumbers use for applying flux to pipe before soldering. It has stiff bristles and can stand getting jammed in tight spaces. Wet ALL meeting surfaces and set the parts back together. Move quickly the yellow carpenters glue has a pretty fast grab time, and that time will pass by pretty quickly. This is why you did the dry run earlier. You will not have time to tweak while you are clamping it up. Murphy's Law will get in the way enough already, if you hadn't noticed while setting it up without glue, it changes when you add glue, it will not be the same, be ready to tweak one more time, mainly the floating tenon that holds the joint. You may even want a wedge block put there after you are done to drive it in flush. I just realized I typed all this with out mentioning how to clean the joint from all the glue mess that will occur. The hole at the elbow needs to be elongated to expose the underside of the joint, so a damp, not wet sponge can be used to clean the joint of all the drippage that will happen. Squeeze the sponge out as much as possible, the excess water will go in the joint and wash out the glue. This will happen real easy, don't underestimate it.

  • A few things I missed, clamping the floating tenon joint itself, using scrap pieces of wood to prevent marring by the clamps. As well as other scraps of wood in other clamp locations too. – Jack Nov 3 '14 at 4:25
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There's probably dowels or a mortise/tennon joint which might make it difficult to take apart to clean and glue and it's a difficult shape to clamp. If this part of the leg won't be easily see as an alternative I would consider using a couple pocket hole screws in addition to glue to keep the pieces together. Then fill in the pocket holes with oak plugs, sand and finish to match.

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