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Apologies if I break any rules with this post, please let me know if I do.

I am an utter novice when it comes to woodworking but I want to get into it as soon as I have the time/money and I decided a good place to get my hands dirty is trying to fix some of the second-hand furniture I'm gonna be getting for my new apartment.

I bought this lovely desk which is mostly in pretty good shape except that the back legs are kinda loose and crooked. When it's standing, I can use it well enough without any wobbling but I'd love to fix them anyway.

desk

It looks like they were removed and glued back in at some point as it seems like there used to be a bar going from leg to leg.

I could remove one of the legs with a little force and unscrewing movement but the other one seems to be glued tightly.

enter image description here enter image description here So, my questions are:

How can I unglue that leg without damaging the desk?

How can I put them back in so that they stand perfectly straight like the other two?

Bear in mind I have no tools or experience, but willing to do whatever is in my means!

Based on the comments the mortise has a loose bit as seen in the picture, so you are definitely right that I should address that as well.

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    Thanks for including a good level of detail and photos. Just FYI, "a bar going from leg to leg" is called a "stretcher". Dec 9 '20 at 21:50
  • From the first detail photo you can see that the frame was damaged by the leg being levered forward/back, causing the crack in the mortise and the doweled joint to separate. Any attempt to reattach the leg would ideally also address this damage. Dec 9 '20 at 21:52
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    Hi, while I'm all for more-detail-than-you-really-wanted Answers :-) I'm not going to add one here because your admission of being an utter novice argues strongly that you shouldn't be tackling this now if you value the desk. It is easy enough to make this better, but a proper fix is what this really demands and that's not something that can be described here in sufficient detail to get the concepts across just as a start. So, my recommendation would be two-fold: if the piece is valuable enough, take it to a pro to fix, or 2nd, wait until you have a lot more experience before you try this.
    – Graphus
    Dec 10 '20 at 9:22
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    I also wanted to say, the person who removed the stretchers (which greatly add to strength and stiffness) should be shot by the Woodworking Gods! So anyway, further to my above, even a half-fix here requires more clamps than you would guess which is a major stumbling block — it's normal to build up clamp collections over time, not buy all at once when you don't really know what you want/need (plus they're expensive in large numbers, especially good ones). And, this is even without recreating and attaching new stretchers, which is the really proper way to tackle this IMHO. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Dec 10 '20 at 9:27
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    You would be shocked at how available and inexpensive this style of furniture can be if you start frequenting estate sales and auctions. Buying a jug of epoxy and some clamps may exceed the cost of the desk. Dec 10 '20 at 19:29
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Given your lack of tooling I think the only reasonable way to address this is to flood the affected joints with epoxy. (Funny how many of my answers seem to be this solution lately.)

First, get some high-quality 2-part epoxy. Personally I like the West and Entropy brands, but I'm sure there are others that are just fine. You'll also need a "filler" to thicken them since this will be a gap-filling application. Aim for a "ketchup" consistency when adding the filler. Also get some disposable plastic syringes.

For the leg that you can detach clean the mating surfaces of the mortise (the hole) and tenon (the part that goes in the hole) with coarse sandpaper so that they are free of any existing glue. See if you can find a clamp or some other way to force the gap in the case closed. Use the syringe to get some epoxy in the gap in the case, then apply epoxy to the tenon, making sure that there is enough epoxy to fully fill the "looseness" between the mortise and tenon. Clamp the case to close up the gap in the apron (though if the clamping takes too much force don't worry about it). Use masking tape going from the end of the leg to the case to hold the leg straight while the epoxy cures.

For the leg that you can't remove I would drill holes going upwards diagonally around the leg so that they intersect with the tenon. Use the syringe to force epoxy into these holes until it starts seeping out of the leg joint. Again use tape to hold the leg straight while the epoxy cures.

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  • Thank you, @SaSSafraS1232 for your answer. I read through it multiple times and looked everything that seemed new to me (parts, materials) so at the very least you are helping me get familiar with the jargon. I'm worried about the clamping (in general and also) because I noticed another crack in the area. I'll see if I can edit the post with the picture, but it's a rectangular piece directly underneath the bit with the mortise, close to the part with the opened apron. That piece seems to have a vertical slit from top to bottom. Hope I'm using the terms well enough to get the picture across! Dec 10 '20 at 11:16

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