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