How do you take apart a table to refurbish it??

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by Shubha posted 09-27-2015 09:49 PM 841 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1125 days

09-27-2015 09:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: refurbish joint

I bought a very cheap table to try to refurbish it. One of the legs is very wobbly and I thought it would be a good challenge to try to fix it. It’s proven impossible. Everything online says to take the joints apart, remove the glue, and reglue it, but how do you take the joints apart when things are glued together??

I’ve tried ripping the top of the table off the apron but the nail heads are so tiny they are ripping through the table top. They’re so embedded into the table top that I could not use a hammer to remove the nails.

The little “nails” in the table legs seem to be wooden pegs, not nails, so the one suggestion I had to take the nails out and remove the glue in the joint isn’t working.

How else would one go about taking this apart and fixing the table leg??

6 replies so far

View jerryminer's profile


930 posts in 1470 days

#1 posted 09-28-2015 05:17 AM

I think you’ll have to pry the top off the base—and if the nails pull through, so be it. Then fill the nail holes. (There are better ways to attach a table top than nailing it down). Some wedges may be useful to spread the load and avoid splitting the top.

The apron-to-leg joint looks like a pegged mortise-and-tenon joint. You’ll need to remove the pegs—-drill them out if you have to, but you may be able to insert a small screw and pull them out You may then be able to pull the joint apart. If not, some hot white vinegar may soften the glue enough to get the joint apart.

Last resort: take a fine saw and cut at the juncture, then repair with a floating tenon.

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2326 days

#2 posted 09-28-2015 12:17 PM

Very old countryish construction techniques for a table. May be better left with the original finish.

But if you have to have it new and shiny – If you take a block of wood and hammer down on the top where it’s already pried up the nail heads will end up proud of the table top and you can easily pull them. Otherwise just refinish the piece as a unit with liquid stripoer and sandpaper . I still think that’s a very old table and I wouldn’t use any power tools to sand it and I’d leave the legs attached to the apron and not risk breaking anything.

View Shubha's profile


13 posts in 1125 days

#3 posted 09-28-2015 01:43 PM

Thanks this is very helpful! I stopped actually caring about refurbishing it and just wanted to know how to take it apart so I can learn. I agree that ultimately this should either just have remained as is or I should have thrown it out due to that damn wobbly leg! But it seems worth trying all the things you both have suggested so I can learn how to do it.

I have a better piece of furniture that is wobbly that I was hoping to fix and I thought this would be my trial. But so far this is proving very difficult!

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2806 days

#4 posted 09-28-2015 01:57 PM

When you drill the pegs, use a smaller drill than the pegs (about half). They may be square and tapered. When you take off the top, be gentle and work it off with wedges – several of them, from the inside out. Treat it like cutting stone – six wedges and a little tap from each and it slowly works off. This way it doesn’t break.

For the pegs, once you have the center out. put a few drops of water into the hole and heat it up with a hairdryer, this should free the glue – if any, and remove the plug with long nose pliers.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View shipwright's profile


7996 posts in 2827 days

#5 posted 09-28-2015 02:58 PM

If it is more than fifty or sixty years old there is every chance it is assembled with hide glue. If it is, you can get the joints apart by applying both heat and moisture. Hot wet rags will work. It takes a little time though as the moisture has to penetrate the joint. Once apart the old glue does not need to be removed as new hide glue will merge with it.
If it’s newer glue …... you’re not so lucky.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View dhazelton's profile


2771 posts in 2326 days

#6 posted 09-29-2015 12:00 PM

”....or I should have thrown it out…..” WRONG.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics