Then Disaster Struck: Dining Table Repair

We had been eating around our new dining table for about week.  Then one afternoon my oldest daughter and I were sitting in the living room when we heard a tremendous crash from the dining room.  We ran out to find a huge mess–and a broken table.

There are wooden valances above each of the dining room windows, and we had been storing books on top of the valances for years.  But something happened that afternoon, and one of the valances came down, books and all, right onto one edge of our new table.  Thank God nobody was sitting there at the time!

Dining Table Repair August 2016

The top was split most of the way down its length, and the support underneath was broken in two.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

It must have been a couple hundred pounds of books that fell five feet before they hit the table top.  The books that had fallen weren’t harmed much.   The valance, however, had broken in a couple places.  (I guess this was a literal case of multivalence?  Okay, sorry, that pun is bad even by my standards.)  When I saw it, I collapsed onto the floor with my head in my hands.  There was nothing for it but to clean up the mess and figure out how to repair my new table.

The top was a clean break, so I knew I could glue it back together without much difficulty.  (By the way, notice that the wood did not break at any of the joints–a properly-made edge joint is indeed stronger than the wood itself!)  The support underneath was another matter.  Each I-shaped assembly is a single, solid piece.  I had neither time nor materials to rebuild the whole assembly.  So I opted for a reinforcement that I’ve seen used for weakened joists in old houses.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

The crack did not run the full length of the table.  I think the bolts holding the top onto the legs kept it together at the far end.  I put a clamp onto the far, undamaged end to keep it together.  Then I used wooden wedges to expand the crack far enough to force wood glue down into it.  Toothpicks and a palate knife were useful in spreading the glue throughout the crack.  I used a couple of cauls to keep the joint aligned. Everything seemed to go together pretty well.

Then it was time to work on the undercarriage.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

Once the glue was dry on the top, but before I pulled all the clamps off, I loosened the lag screws that held the broken piece to the top.  I shot some Liquid Nails adhesive into the break and pulled the two pieces together with clamps.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

Just to be clear: I glued the two pieces together only for alignment, not for strength.  Once that glue was dry, it was time to install a reinforcement.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

I cut a clear 1 1/2X2 from yellow pine and screwed it to the wood on each side of the break.  Then I tightened up the lag screws in the original piece.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

It doesn’t look pretty, but the result is a stable, solid table.  And unless you crawl under the table, you’ll never see that it’s been repaired.

And as for the top, the glue line is nearly invisible.

Dining Table Repair August 2016Dining Table Repair August 2016

All that’s left is to scrape/sand the glue line perfectly flush and refinish it.  But at this rate, I’ll probably just let the younger kids continue to destroy the current finish, which already has some noticeable scratches in it.  Then after a couple years (or decades) I’ll sand it all down and do a proper refinishing job.

Because, frankly, it took me two afternoons to repair the table, and by that time the family was a little tired of not having a table for meals.  I got the undercarriage fixed just in time to eat supper.

Dining Table Repair August 2016

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45 Responses to Then Disaster Struck: Dining Table Repair

  1. Just FYI liquid nail will fail in time. Next time I highly recommend west system epoxy with filler for gap filling. Great repair job.

  2. Jonas Jensen says:

    Sorry to hear that your table broke.
    But great job on repairing it.
    I like the idea of waiting a couple of years before refinishing it. Better not test the patience of the family to the limit 🙂
    Brgds
    Jonas

  3. Matt McGrane says:

    Wow, what a bummer! I followed your table build and to have it broken so soon after completion – well, I don’t know what else to say. But as for learning experiences, is there anything that you think could have been different in the design to make this stronger? … not that you need to build for the odd 200 pounds of flying books …

  4. Greg Merritt says:

    Wow! Glad no one was hurt in the whole ordeal. The repair looks good though. Probably should relax and enjoy the table for while.

  5. Stefan says:

    Oh, what a pity!
    Very annoying if the recently completed project just breaks. Glad that no one was hurt.
    Good job on the repair. Just a question, have you taken into considerations some battens on the underside of the table for stabilization?
    Cheers,
    Stefan

  6. Jos Vermeulen says:

    Dear sir/madam,

    what a complete disaster, but it’s fun to see that you repaired it instead of buying a new one (Like some people do). I find it very interesting to see that the joints are indeed stronger than the wood itself. The story is fun to read and i’m glad to see the table repaired at the end of it… don’t want to imagine someone sitting at the table when that happened! Maybe it’s an idea to reinforce the shelves for the books as well?? to prevent it happening again of course 😉

    This comment was written by a HMC Rotterdam (Netherlands) student as an assignment from my teacher, many will follow… prepare yourself! 😀

    Kind regards,
    Jos Vermeulen

    • Hello, Jos. I’m glad to see you here, and thanks for the comment. I’m an English professor by trade, so I very much appreciate what your teacher is doing. I do hope you will check in regularly and post more comments.

  7. Hallo

    My name is Glenn Ederveen and I am an Hout- en Meubileringscollege student from the Netherlands. Like you properly already knew is that our English teacher gave us an assignment of reading your blog. So prepare there will be 80 more reply’s.

    But what a bad luck did you got. But its also nice now it is a table with a story. And a piece of furniture with a story is always better in my opinion. But the only thing I don’t like is that you used screws and a new piece of wood with a whole different colour. Okey it’s under the table but still there are so many ways you can do this differently use only glue or if you want use dowel’s. but please don’t use screws. The table top looks great again and that’s the most important thing.

    Enjoy eating at the table again!

    Glenn Ederveen

    • Hello, Glenn. Indeed, the repair does add to the table’s story. I’m afraid to say that I did have to use a few screws in the repair, as my only other realistic option was completely rebuilding half the leg assembly. Screws have an important place in woodworking, though I do prefer to use traditional joinery whenever possible.

  8. Dear sir/ madam,

    My name is Ronald van Wijk, I am 18 years old and I am living in Werkendam in the Netherlands. I’m following a study for furniture maker at the HMC in Rotterdam.
    And I am one of the students who have to look and command at your blog.

    I am glad to hear nobody has been hurt by the accident. such a waste of a beautiful
    wooden table. Luckily you are handy enough to repair your new table on your own.
    And hopefully your table will last a bit longer than a week.

    Good luck in the future and keep up the good work.

    Kinds regards,

    Ronald van Wijk

    • Hello, Ronald. Glad to see you here, and I’m delighted to hear about your study in furniture. I’ve found that building furniture has taught me a lot about how to repair it. This is definitely the most extensive repair I’ve ever had to do on one of my own pieces.

  9. Mariëlle Dijkman says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    My name is Mariëlle Dijkman and I am 18 years old. I am a student of the HMC in Rotterdam . For my English lesson I have to comment on your blog.

    I really like the way you have repairs this table. And it is nice that you don’t seen anything at the end. I hope that you inspire a lot people.

    Kind regards,

    Mariëlle Dijkman

    • Hello, Marielle. (Sorry about the missing umlaut in your name, but I don’t know the right keystroke to insert it here.) I’m an English professor by trade, and I’m glad to see your teacher giving you an assignment like this. I sympathize with anybody who learns English as a second language. It is not easy to master, but I hope that you will keep at it.

  10. Beryl Capelle says:

    Hi,

    What a disappointment that the table was broken. But I like the way you made the table like new again. You can see the glue nearly, and also you made the table stable again. I think that’s all what matters, right?

    Kind regards,
    Beryl Capelle

  11. Dylan van der Kleij says:

    Hello,

    Here’s another student from the HMC in the Netherlands haha. I hope you’re not annoyed by now. I’m sorry to hear that you had to repair your table a week after you bought it. On the other hand, it must have been really nice to see how well of a job you did repairing the table. Judging from the pictures I cant even see where the crack used to be. As you said unless you crawl under the table, you’ll never see that it’s been repaired.

    Anyways it was really fun to read your blog so thanks, and have a good one.

  12. Koen Bos says:

    What a bummer, this is something you can’t foresee. Just made a table and one week later you’re already fixing it. It happens to more woodworkers, but it’s usually because of bad construction. That’s not the deal with your work. It looks like those books fell from quit a height. It’s a shame that you couldn’t fix the I beams a different kind of way, but like you said you can’t see the fix unless you drop your silverware. You did a nice job with your glue-up. A good woodworker is great at solving mistakes and that’s what you did. I’ve seen the pictures of you building the table. Nice job with the joinery. And plaining the tabletop by hand, I take my hat off to you. Great job!

    Koen Bos

  13. Prince Jallah says:

    Hallo
    My name is prince jallah also a student at the HMC in Rotterdam
    Thank God nobody was hurt . Good jop love your story
    Hope to see the proper refinishing job.

  14. jochem says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    My name is Jochem and I live in the Netherlands. I am studying to become a wood furniture maker at the HMC in Rotterdam. A broking dining table in a week is very fast. But the way you fix it is greed I think. I think it is a greed decision to make an extra wood on the undercarriage. I hope the table aren’t broken again.
    Enjoy your new dining table.
    Jochem

  15. rens says:

    Goodday,

    I’m a student from the HM College in Rotterdam, my name is Rens de Kuyper.
    Too bad to hear that youre table was broken..
    I like the work you did to repair the table on youre own.

  16. Hello,

    Nice job on the repair! I really enjoyed your writing. I think it’s wonderful that you decided to go trough the trouble of repairing the table instead of just buying a new one. Bookshelves collapsing has always been a fear of mine, but in this story you can really see the damage that it can cause.
    Luckily you were not in the room when it happened.
    I hope you and your family will have many dinners on that table.

    Best wishes,

    Martijn Hoogendoorn

  17. Sanne van Genderen says:

    Hello,

    It was probably shocking when you saw the table like that, after one week. Luckely there was nobody in the room when the books fell on the table. But you did a great job by fixing the table instead of buying a new one, most people would buy a new one. Hopefully the table doesn’t break again.

    Sanne van Genderen

  18. Tom says:

    Hi

    I’m sorry to hear about your table, it must have been demoralizing to see something you must have put a lot of work in in such a state.

    I wouldn’t personally have repaired the beam in the way you did. I would have routed slots into either side of the beam in which i would have inserted some oak, ash or something of similar strength. But considering the constraints on your time i suppose you solution is pretty good too.

    And if i were you i would look into what caused the valence to fail and make sure the others don’t fail in a similarly disastrous manner.

    Good luck with your future projects,

    Tom.

    P.S. the first line of your blog reads “We had been eating around our new dining table for about week.” surely it’s supposed to be “for about a week” or “for about one week”.

  19. kai says:

    Dear steve,

    I’m Kai van Eck I’m also a student at the HMC in Rotterdam it is a furniture school in the Netherlands. I also have to comment on your Blog for my English teacher as an assignment. It’s a pity that your table had a crack like that, it is a beautiful table to have. The restoration of your table has gone very well I can see that. In my opinion you had to use a darker wood to repair it instead of the wood you used. So you wouldn’t notice, even from a distance. I know it is underneath your table but still it would have been a better solution. But then again it is my opinion. After all it is a lovely table to have, and I hope you have a lot of dinners coming your way at your table.

    Kind regards,
    Kai van Eck

  20. Bas says:

    Hello,

    First of all, you did a good job repairing your table. When I look at the pictures I can’t see the crack that used to be there. Most people wouldn’t take the effort of fixing their table but they just buy a new one. I would give the two pieces (which are screwed against the undercarriage) the same colour as the rest of the table, but that’s just me.

    I hope your table will last a bit longer after this repair.

    Keep up the good work!

    Bas

    • Staining the brace to match the color of the cherry is certainly an option, but I had several reasons not to:
      1. The brace is underneath the table and practically invisible in daily use.
      2. The yellow pine I used is quite strong but doesn’t take stain well, and however much you try, you really can’t make yellow pine look much like cherry.
      3. My philosophy is to leave woods in their natural color whenever possible; I prefer contrasting colors to matching colors.

  21. Samira Brussé says:

    Dear Steve,

    What a shock it must have been for you to find out that the table you worked so hard on broke!
    Luckily no one was harmed.

    I always find it kind of a miracle that joints and glue are stronger than the actual wood itself.
    I completely understand that you “collapsed onto the floor with your head in your hands”. I would be so angry if it would happen to me.

    Fortunately you knew how to fix it!
    You can’t really see a difference. Only if you lay underneath it you can tell. But probably only your little kids will lay underneath while playing and kids don’t really care about that, ha ha.

    I was very amazed by your talent given that you are an English professor!

    Please keep making beautiful pieces like this for you family and friend to enjoy.

    Greetings from the Netherlands.

    Kind regards,
    Samira Brussé

  22. The Flying Dutchman says:

    Dear ser/madam,

    I’m Dustin Franken and I am a student at the HMC in Rotterdam, I am studying woodworker/ furniture maker. What a complete disaster but I love to see that you repaired the table by yourself. It’s funny to see that the joints are indeed stronger than the wood itself. Your opinion about the table after the reparation is quite normal. I think it is an creative solution. You inspired me by the way you did this. Good job!

    Kind regards,
    Dustin

  23. Jan Pipo de Clown says:

    Dear Steve,

    I’m Delano van denBosch and I am a student at the HMC in Rotterdam, I am studying woodworker/ furniture maker. What a complete disaster but I love to see that you repaired the table by yourself. It’s funny to see that the joints are indeed stronger than the wood itself. Your opinion about the table after the reparation is quite normal. I think it is an creative solution. You inspired me by the way you did this. Good job!

    Kind regards,
    Delano

  24. Lucas says:

    Dear steve,
    My name is Lucas Boer and I am a student at the HMC in Rotterdam. We all need to comment on your blog.
    What a disaster that the table has broken.
    But What a nice repair job you have done. it’s a good thing you repaired the table by yourself.
    when i looked at the pictures i did not see the crakcs,
    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,
    Lucas

  25. Eli says:

    Dear Steve,

    Sorry to hear that your table is broken, that was scared. fortunately nobody was sitting there.
    I`m a student from HMC Rotterdam and I like the way that you repaired the table by yourself.
    I hope you wil continue blogging

    Kind regards,
    Eli

  26. Joël says:

    Dear sir/madam

    My name is Joël van der Burgh and I am also a student from Rotterdam.

    Unfurtunately the table went destroyed so quickly.

    I like the way you repaired the dinning table and that you do not see how the table is repaired.

    Kind regards,

    Joël

  27. Anna van Noppen says:

    Dear sir/madam,

    My name is Anna van Noppen and I am nineteen years old. I live in the Netherlands and I am also a student at HMC in Rotterdam. For an English assignment we have to comment on your blog.

    You must have been shocked when you saw that your table was broken! Once, at my internship there was also a broken table and we solved the problem also with glue. Amazing how the glue is stronger than the wood itself right? I think you found a very clever solution, to fix your table with glue. Good job!

    Kind regards,

    Anna van Noppen

  28. maxbijlard says:

    Well that’s a pity, above all this is jus bad luck, but it’s also a pretty cool story to tell. I think you did a really good job on repairing this table. From above you can’t see that the table is repaired. However, I don’t think I would choose the same method as you did for repairing the beam underneath the table. I would pick the same wood (cherry?) and maybe two smaller beams on each side so it looks more subtle, but this is just a suggestion. You have probably already made the best considerations for yourself. The important thing is that you can’t see the repair from above so, good job!!

    Max Bijlard

  29. mark f. says:

    Dear Steve,

    Such a pity when the table cracked almost all the way through. Although it is interesting that the saying about joints are stronger than the wood is being confirmed. I think you did a great job at solving the table and had no other choice but to reinforce the base of the table. But I’m curious to see whether the crack isn’t visible anymore after refinishing it. Because I think you still see the scars of the crack or maybe only when you ever worked with wood you are able to see it.

    Good luck in the future and I would love to see the refinished version of the tabel. I’ll keep your method for solving in mind for when the inevitable happens to me.

    Kind regards,
    Mark F

  30. bram says:

    Dear Steve,

    I can imagine how it must be to find out your new handmade table is broken. Still you had a little bit luck it was not completely broken. Now you still can repair it properly. I really love the big table top and the kind of wood your used for it. When you are looking to it you see there needs to be lived at if you know what am saying. You did a good job while repairing it, the crack is almost gone. The only thing I don’t get is why you used yellow pine instead of the original wood type for the reinforcement. When I looked at you website I saw nice things like your smoking pipes and the bed for your daughters.

    Good luck and fun in the future with your furniture, I hope you will make many more beautiful things

    Kind regards,
    Bram Gobel

  31. Mathijs says:

    Dear Steve,

    I am also a furniture maker from the Netherlands, what a bummer to see that your table broke. but the looks of it how you repaired it looks amazing. I kind of did the same work to a table that my parents owned, they wanted to throw it away but i simply gave it new life by using almost the same tools and equipment. Very lovely to see, Keep up the good work

    Kinds regards,

    Mathijs

  32. meesdeppe says:

    dear sir,

    what a bummer to see that your table broke! i’ve read your other blog post about how you made this table and i liked it a lot. you reapaired the table very well by the way. would you mind telling us how the books came down? did the books fall due to a plug coming out of the wall?

    kind regards,

    Mees Deppe

    • The shelf (technically a valence) above the window was supported with some sturdy metal brackets. The shelf came down spontaneously one afternoon. When I looked closely at the remains, I found that the screws that had held the brackets to the walls had very fine threads. One screw had pulled out of the wall, which caused a chain-reaction, the results of which you’ve seen. So it was faulty hardware, which had been installed decades ago, that ultimately caused the damage.

      That, and maybe, just maybe, we also had too many books piled up on that shelf.

  33. Roy says:

    Hello,

    I’m a student at a wood and furniture college in the Netherlands.

    It was really annoying that your table was broken. I have admiration how you fix it. He was broken and you are already thinking how to fix it. The way you explain what you have done is very clear.

    If there is a broken table in my house one day, I shall thinking on your story. I wish you much luck with your table.

    Kindly regrets,

    Roy Snijders

  34. Hello,

    Oh dear! That didn’t go so wel… I guess you’re table was pretty hurt, what a disaster. It’s very lucky there was no one arround when the books fell down. Because, if that much pound fall on your head you surely need more than a paracetamol, if you know what I mean.
    Ow, by the way, my name is Jochem van Es, also a student from HMC Rotterdam. I study to become an furniture builder. I really like the education.

    I think you solve the problem with you table pretty good and no one will see that it has been repaired. Just like is has never happen.

    I hope you keep thinking creative with things like this and I wish you good luck!

    Kind regards,
    vanesinterieurbouw

  35. Rick Zagwijn says:

    Hello,

    My name is Rick Zagwijn and as you would expect I am also an student of the Hmc. I think you did a really good job on repairing the table! Like you said you can barely see the crack. I like to see that there are still people who like to fix beautiful furniture like this. I hope you can enjoy your table for a long time!

    Kind regards,
    Rick Zagwijn

  36. Rosanne says:

    Hello,

    My name is Rosanne and I am also a studant at the HMC in Rotterdam. It’s nice to see that you repaired you’re table instead of buying a new one. I did an internship at a furniture making company and they also did a few repairing jobs. So I got to do some repairing as well, and it was fun.

    I hope your table doesn’t do something like this again.

    Kind regards,

    Rosanne

  37. Pauline says:

    Hi,
    My name is Pauline Tanis, I am a student at the HMC.
    It is very pity to hear that the table was broken. But I like it how you made the table like new again. You almost can’t see the glue sow you almost can’t see it was broken. So I think you did a very good job.
    Kind regards,
    Pauline Tanis

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