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I have acquired a coffee table (it's more like a small wide chest of drawers) with a warped frame and want to check that my fixing method is appropriate and cannot be improved upon.**

enter image description here

My plan to fix is as follows:

1) Apply wood glue (from my research Gorilla wood glue looks a good option)

2) Provide moisture to the area by covering with damp paper towels then wrapping in cling film

3) Tighten a ratchet strap around the base and tighten.

4) Leave for a week to dry.

Is this likely to break the wood and provide a long term fix?

Additional Photos

Front view

Diagonal view

Side View

Underneath

Underneath Zoom

  • 3
    First off, DO NOT glue that back in place. I need to see more pics of the piece (multiple angles upright, and ideally a pic from the underside if you can manage it) to be sure but I'm fairly confident the problem largely lies with the way this was originally put together,. 99% chance that's a piece of export furniture from Asia and like many such things it looks like it's constructed awfully — so although a temporary fix is just a bottle of glue away for the long term you may not be able to fix this satisfactorily. – Graphus Nov 1 '18 at 13:38
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    Re. your numbered points, 1) no 2) not needed and poses a great risk of catastrophic finish damage that you may not be able to reverse 3) yes (may need padding so as not to dent the corners) 4) not needed. Glues are all fully 'dry' in less than 24 hours, waiting any longer than this serves no purpose. – Graphus Nov 1 '18 at 13:42
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    What @Graphus said is correct, this is likely happening because of how it was built. From the one picture you provided, this appears to be a classic example of what happens when a piece is designed without consideration to wood movement. Wood grows and shrinks throughout the year as moisture in the air increases and decreases, respectively. The trick is knowing how and in what directions. You're in good hands with Graphus. If you can supply the pictures he's asking for, it'll be easier to figure out the options for a successful long term repair. – Katie Kilian Nov 1 '18 at 14:28
  • Thank you @Graphus, I understand from what you have said that this might have been put together in such a way that there is no long term fix and that the wet paper towels aren't a good idea. I will attach some more photos. – David Watkins Nov 1 '18 at 15:41
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    Thanks for the additional pics, they give a much clearer idea of what's going on here. Unfortunately they confirm my worst suspicions about how this was put together. See the boards along the bottom? That same orientation is how the boards making up the sides should have been done so that they expand and contract along the same axis as the top and bottom. But they move up/down instead and being attached at 90° to the frame at the front is the primary reason the gap opened up in the first place. The original glue joint there tried to keep the boards from moving but had no chance of doing so. – Graphus Nov 1 '18 at 19:03
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You are not dealing with warped wood here.

Your last picture shows that you have a moisture problem (due to a change in the ambient moisture content of the air - change from a dry climate to a wet climate, moved outdoors from a controlled environment) that has caused the bottom to expand and in the process push the the front legs forward, breaking the end grain to face grain glue joint.

No amount of clamping, screwing or gluing is going to repair this.

There is excess wood and you must remove material. It looks like there is about 1/8" of excess wood(the width of the crack between the leg and the end panel). A wide saw kerf should do the job, but I don't know how to do this without badly scratching the front skirt, but it will be the back of the skirt and out of sight. Someone else might know of an elegant way to do this in situ.

  • Use a hand saw and cut a kerf using the front skirt as a guide. This will badly scratch the skirt, but it will be out of sight.
  • Use a so called electric multi saw or a reciprocating saw.
  • You might be able to attack the problem from the top side of the bottom pieces using a very thin chisel.

Ultimately I foresee a lot putzing around by the time you have removed sufficient wood, but it should be out of sight

Once you think that your kerf is wide enough use a bar clamp or a pipe clamp to draw the from leg back against the end panels (I suppose your ratchet strap would work as well). If there is still a gap, remove more wood.

Leaving the clamps in place, attach glue blocks (blocks of wood that are glued and or screwed) to both the leg and the panel. Don't plan on gluing the panel to the leg.

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In general that's the right approach. A few comments:

  1. you shouldn't need to add moisture with damp towels and polyurethane glue unless perhaps you live in an extremely dry climate.

  2. you will probably get better results using regular bar clamps. It will be more easy to control where clamping force is applied, and more importantly, in what direction.

  3. If you are trying to square things up, not just close gaps, you will need a reference square to test the assembly as you clamp it up. A cheap plastic speed square is accurate enough for this.

  4. most importantly, it looks like this furniture was not really built in a way that accounts for seasonal wood movement. Specifically, it looks like the boards that make up the side are simply butt joined with their end grain into the long grain of the face. If you attempt to simply glue this back, the joint is sure to come apart within 1-2 years. A better fix would be to screw the frame back on. There are multiple ways to do this, but generally the screw needs to be countersunk/counterbored in an elongated hole that allows lateral wood movement (sliding) while still preventing the pieces from coming apart.

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  • Thank you @aaron, 1) OK I won't use the damp towels 2) I will look into getting the clamps as this makes sense as a better solution than using a strap for the reasons you mention 3) – David Watkins Nov 1 '18 at 15:51
  • 3) OK I had thought this wouldn't be necessary once the pieces made contact but I guess I may over-tighten them. 4) I'm coming to the realisation that this isn't a finely made piece of furniture. In which case I don't mind a screw solution. I'm just not sure how I can attach the two pieces while allowing for any lateral movement. Won't I restrict any movement that is not rotation around the screw? – David Watkins Nov 1 '18 at 16:08
  • @DavidWatkins - the easiest way to do this is to screw directly through the face frame into the leg. No glue necessary: 1. clamp things up 2. create a pilot hole appropriately sized for your screw. 3. Create a wide counterbore for the screw shank. a good + 3/16" to the diameter should do. 4. Screw it all together with a pan head screw and washer. Tight enough to bring the pieces together, and no more. You do want to allow the pieces to slide around. It's a shame, since it's nice and dense tropical wood, but the joinery is absolutely awful. – aaron Nov 1 '18 at 16:49
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I'm going to propose a solution that's pretty "far out", because, like the other commenters have said, there is a fundamental problem with the case construction here. I don't think this is really an elegant solution, but I also don't see any good way to fix this piece of furniture without totally rebuilding it.

Cut the bottom 1"-2" off the decorative feet that are part of the carcase sides and pull the legs of the piece together with a turnbuckle, allthread, or steel cable. Leave this in place permanently.

This will close up the gaps and will let you avoid addressing the wood movement issue. However it will leave exposed metal hardware.

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  • Thanks for the alternative solution @SaSSafraS1232, I'm hoping it won't come to that but I'll keep this in mind if it ends up in the garage! – David Watkins Nov 2 '18 at 17:24
  • It seems to me that this will end up splitting the wood instead of simply expanding the joints. You're going to forcibly hold the front and back together with a material (metal) that will expand minimally in relation to the wood's expansion, then let the wood just do its thing. If done now, when the bottom is fully expanded, the bottom will shrink back leaving the metal sticking out (since it won't contract much). If done when the wood is fully shrunken, it will buckle or break wood where it attaches to the metal since the metal won't expand nearly as much. – FreeMan Nov 7 '18 at 13:16

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