Below are some repairs you might have given up on, but as you can see, if it is made out of wood, it is NOT impossible to repair.
This beautiful game table has a big problem. The back two legs pictured here had been dinner for a nest of hungry powder post beetles--often mistakenly called wood worms. The end of the back left leg is on the table top. The two detail pictures of that leg show how the wood has been eaten away and how someone had tried to repair this damage previously without success. Based on the failure of the previous repair attempt and the severity of the damage, you might conclude that this would be an impossible repair.
This is the back right leg, weakened by the pervasive feasting of the beetles and broken across the usually strongest part of the wood. This may look impossible, but we will show you below that it was not.
It is always best when working with antiques to keep as much of the original materials intact as possible, and that is what we strive to do. With these pieces, the wood on both sides of the breaks was so weakened by the beetles that simply gluing the break together would have done little to give this table renewed life. They would have broken again in new places.
Consequently our first job was to fill the tunneled catacombs the beetles had created with high strength liquid epoxy. Each leg absorbed a couple ounces of epoxy, which is a remarkable quantity. We then inserted long dowels into the leg to add additional strength from the continuous wood fibers of the dowels.
So much wood material was lost on the leg that broke at the toe that there was no seam that could be re-glued. For that leg, after the epoxy infusion we created flat edges and glued a piece of new walnut between them as pictured to the right. We then shaped the splice, bleached it and re-colored it to blend with the old wood.
Perhaps we go overboard in our attempts to ensure that our repairs are strong, but there is one more step we took to ensure that these legs would support this table for the next century and more. We routed a spline groove out of the bottom of each leg and glued a block of hard maple into the spline. Why did we use maple instead of walnut? The spline would not show when the table was in use so the added strength of the maple over walnut was the reason for its choice. We then shaped the spline to follow the contour of the leg.
The final step of repair was to touch up the repair sites and reassemble the table. Additionally we cleaned, waxed and polished the finish of the entire table so it would all match the renewed look of the repaired legs. You would never guess this table had formerly been food for a whole kingdom! Below is a photo of the entire table after repairs and refurbishing.
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Most of the furniture we work on is old and fairly high quality. This item is relatively young, a decade or two old at the most, and made with particle board panels and knock apart fittings.What exactly happened to cause the damage you see, we don't know. The broken off pieces are visible at the bottom of the picture to the left. It is impossible to fit together broken particle board. Fractured veneer pieces are also impossible to perfectly mend. If this is impossible to repair, the alternative would be to make a new shelf. But, is it impossible?
We used a high strength epoxy to infuse the particle board and create a strong stable core. We then used polyester filler to fill and smooth the surface. Finally we used the skills of an artist to reproduce the color and pattern of the grain. We wish we were better photographers so you could see how good this looked when we were done! To see the end result, pass your mouse over the space below.
The two repaired legs are in the foreground in the photo just below. Can you see the repairs? The photo at the bottom shows one repaired leg and one original leg. Can you tell?
In case you hadn't seen how an antique game table works, we have included a couple small photos of the table rotated, displaying the storage compartment and then opened up, showing the felted top.