Need help suggestions/ideas on how to proceed with project

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Blog entry by dalec posted 04-10-2008 09:26 PM 4302 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was approached by friends who have a myrtlewood coffee table that they want cut down from 40” to roughly 20” x 40”.

The table was built for them probably 25 years ago. The table top is made up of four myrtlewood boards approx. 40” long x 10” wide and 3/4” thick. The joints between board 1&2 and 3&4 have failed. There are gaps between the boards that the original builder attempted to control by adding additional stretchers and gluding and screwing to the underside of the table top. the table legs and appron appear to be different wood than the table top.

I have not given them a definite answer on whether I want to take on this project.

What I would like to know if who you might suggest I approach the project. Would you suggest I disassemble to table and use the salvageable wood to build a new table, or can I same some of the assembled parts (boards 2&3 in that the joint is still solid) and any other parts for the downsized table?

Are there any issues with myrtlewood I need to know about?

The friends say, if I mess it up, it is ok, but I really don’t want to do the project unless I have a good sense for the project and that it is in my skill level to accomplish.

Thanks for looking and any ideas you might have.


8 comments so far

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3361 days

#1 posted 04-10-2008 09:59 PM

Have you thought about routing out the bad seams and possibly putting an inlay in there? My skill level ain’t so high, so I’d be afraid to disassemle the table (it really is pretty). I’d lean more toward simple decoration to cover the seams.

-- Working at Woodworking

View motthunter's profile


2142 posts in 3221 days

#2 posted 04-10-2008 10:00 PM

If you want the challenge, go for it. This could be interesting. First, it is hard to see in the pic, but I don’t see how this top was supposed to expand or shrink with the humidity. Most likely what happened was the wood shrank and since the outer boards were fixed to the edges, the middle one separated from the center.

If you can remove the top, it can be re-glued into a panel but this is not really a complete solution as this type of wood expands and contracts easily. The problem is that it is inset into the frame and the frame is structural causing no room for wood change. When I make panel tops like that where the outer frame (skirt) is structural, I use veneer over plywood so that the panel is stable. If I skirt a solid wood panel, I overhang the top over the legs and use figure 8 fasteners or shop made clips that allow expansion to hold the top to the bottom structure.

My suggestion would be to disassemble this and redesign it with the dynamics of the wood in mind. It could be turned into a beautiful table.

-- making sawdust....

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3411 days

#3 posted 04-10-2008 10:10 PM

If it were a normal table where the top overlapped the base I would remove the top.
Joint the edges and glue them. Then when I fastened it to the base use either slots for
the screws or figure 8’s.

In this case I might think about using a router to open up the gaps just enough so that they were nice clean edges. Then do the same to the middle boards to get all gaps to match. Then leave it at that.
It would look like it was made that way. Just a little stain to darken the fresh wood.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3167 days

#4 posted 04-10-2008 11:11 PM

If I understand you correctly, they want this table basically cut in half, right? That would take care of your gap problem, because then you could dismantle it, joint the edges and reglue them. If you can tell how the legs are attached, you would then just have to cut the base down to 20” and reinstall the cut down top.
I think I would sit down at the drawing board and come up with something similar and use the lumber to build a new table, taking into account wood movement and designing for it. Since they want the table half size, you’ll have plenty of lumber for just about anything that size.

View Lip's profile


158 posts in 3472 days

#5 posted 04-11-2008 12:32 AM

I agree with what Mott said … If I were to take on this project, they would have two options … we could redesign the table so that the top has room to move … something like this would work … or we could stick with the original design, but replace the wood panels with a veneer top like Mott mentioned.

-- Lip's Dysfuncational Firewood Farm, South Bend, IN

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3176 days

#6 posted 04-11-2008 12:48 AM

I think I would remove the top from the frame/apron and cut out the center panel then joint those edges and put them together. Then rework the frame/apron as above allowing for expansion. Then re-purpose the center panel for one of my own projects.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View dalec's profile


613 posts in 3311 days

#7 posted 04-11-2008 03:30 AM

From what I have seen with the table, it appears there was no provision made for wood expansion. They are interested in cutting the table width down by 50%.

I am not sure about trying to duplicate the original design. It may be better to redesign the table.

Thanks for the ideas.


View dalec's profile


613 posts in 3311 days

#8 posted 04-11-2008 05:18 PM

Thanks everyone for the ideas and suggestions. They have given me several ideas that I can use. I am now thinking about building a prototype out of low cost material first both to ensure my friends are happy with the design and also to hone my limited skills to be sure I can pull it off.

In answer to one of the questions about how the legs are attached, it appears the legs are notched on the two front facing sides to rest on the bottom of the appron and glued and a 90 degree block notched to conform to the back two sides of the leg that is screwed into the appron to secure the legs.

It appears the builder used a lot of glue, so disassembling the table my be tricky. Does anyone have ideas of how best to disassemble this table and preserving as much of the wood as possible?


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