yikes! my table legs split open after staining!

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Forum topic by knotsofast posted 03-11-2014 10:23 PM 1657 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View knotsofast's profile


28 posts in 1641 days

03-11-2014 10:23 PM

I am not sure where I went wrong and could use some advise…...short version….turned my table legs out of ash, had to glue them from two pieces to make the full 4” I needed, burnished them out of habit, realized when I went to stain that this was a bad idea the stain did not do a thing. since I have never stained turned pieces I tested on a leg I goofed on during the original turning …. sanded burnish off with 220 then put a damp rag on leg to raise the grain let that dry and stain worked perfect. So I did the same to the 4 good legs they too came out perfect. They stayed in my shop for three days looking perfect (50% humidity), then I needed the space to build a cabinet for work, so I put them inside the house. over the course of one day and one night 3 out of 4 legs split apart at glue joints about 1/16th of an inch open. all three split on the top half only. I am new to turning, but I have been woodworking for a long time, and have yet to have a long grain glue joint fail on me, so am guessing that the damp rag and staining was too much for the glue (titebond) ? I suppose I should check humidity in house, I just didn’t think it would be all that dramatically different in the winter. I am also guessing that I won’t be able to save the legs ….....unless some one has a good trick for me. I would love to get opinions and or tips on this failure I don’t want this kind of disaster again.

9 replies so far

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 1884 days

#1 posted 03-11-2014 10:39 PM

Were they near any sort of direct heat?

View MisterBill's profile


411 posts in 2246 days

#2 posted 03-11-2014 10:44 PM

Can you post pictures of the splits?

View bondogaposis's profile


4722 posts in 2346 days

#3 posted 03-12-2014 01:58 AM

Was the glue past it’s prime? Or maybe froze? how cold is your shop?

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Woodknack's profile


11608 posts in 2375 days

#4 posted 03-12-2014 04:24 AM

You have 2 issues, the glue failure and the humidity change. If you heat in the winter, that dries the air more than normal and you can have a significant difference between house and shop. The outside of the wood dries faster than the inside, the outside wood shrinks forcing the wood to bow. Not enough information to know why the glue failed, maybe it froze sometime in the past, maybe it was old, no way for us to know but you should toss it. Next time apply a film finish before taking them into the house, that will drastically slow the drying process.

-- Rick M,

View Brett's profile


950 posts in 2754 days

#5 posted 03-13-2014 02:36 PM

Another issue could be that the pieces were clamped with too much force, squeezing most of the glue out (read too much glue out) and there wasn’t enough between the pieces to make the proper bond. I used to really clamp hard thinking that was what was needed. Now I clamp firmly but not really cranking down on the handles like I used to. Just a possibility to think about.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3658 days

#6 posted 03-13-2014 04:24 PM

Good point, Brett. I used to really batten down on the clamps, but after a couple of bad glue joints I decided to back off on the pressure a bit. Now I just apply enough pressure to get a little squeeze-out.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8029 posts in 2323 days

#7 posted 03-13-2014 05:23 PM

Good Sir Norm always makes a point of warning not to clamp to tightly. Just enough to close up any gap.

None the less, I still apply to much force to the clamps….. just out of habit, as if to say “there, take that”.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View madts's profile


1862 posts in 2334 days

#8 posted 03-13-2014 06:01 PM

I have glue go bad because of both age /freeze in Houston TX. Glue joints came apart, so that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View knotsofast's profile


28 posts in 1641 days

#9 posted 03-14-2014 01:16 AM

Thanks all….. been havin problems accessing the computer to check in (daughter in college, she gets priority). All very good points, I took moisture meter from garage and put it in the house and got an incredible 37% humidity level!!!!!!!!!!!( mistake #1) So I feel like a real dope for not checking, and I really hate telling the world about my mistakes,but I have learned from other peoples mistakes and been spared the anguish many times so its my turn to give back.Some times when you get away with things like that long enough you start to think you have a good feel for things and get over confident with your instincts…...I guess I needed a reminder.

Mistake #2…...this one kills me…...I have known this from very early in my woodworking career, it is so basic… DOUBLE CHECK YOUR END GRAIN!
Just because you get a really good match on the face does not mean that you have your grain matched properly. I had some really great material to work with and I had a hard time finding the joints after clean up. It wasn’t really obvious at first glance but it hit me like a brick and my heart sank this morning during the first cup of coffee “Surely I must have checked before glue up…..” I said to my sad self. Standing there barefoot on the cold concrete staring at end grain trying to focus my eyes and turn my head in a way that would make the grain look in my favor, I realized there was no denying it … I screwed up! The more I looked the more clues I found to confirm how wrong I was. So my legs had no chance, I am actually glad that I made mistake #1 now, because if I had gotten away with it I would have finished the table and then had that failure happen later on at a much more inconvenient time.

I hope that some one out there can benefit from my mistakes, I am going to give myself another dope slap and get ready for a new day tomorrow.

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