Why did my expensive table come apart?

by Jack R
(Austin, Texas)

Q:

I bought a dining room table in the shape of an octagon. The table came apart at glued seams diagonally from each other. The table is 60" wide with a large octagon shaped glass in the center.

The splits started on the inside of the table next to the glass. One split is 1/8" tapering to nothing towards the outside of the table. The other is 1/16" also tapering to nothing at the outside of the table.

What caused this table to come apart?

A: There are a number of things that can cause a joint to fail. Usually, the base cause of the problem is change in humidity that causes the wood to expand and contract. If the join wasn't well done, or the design is flawed, the contraction and expansion of the wood can put too much pressure on the joint causing it to pop apart.

The design should allow room for expansion and contraction, but with your table the wood will move differently from the glass and if there isn't room something has to give. In my experience it is usually the wood that splits, not the glue joint giving way, but that is most likely your underlying problem.

As for why the glue failed it can be the glue itself, either using the wrong kind of glue, or using old glue that has lost it's sticking power. (Wood glue has a shelf life of around a year.)

More likely it is a problem in the join. Maybe the edges of the joining boards weren't flat or square, or they were disturbed during glue-up.

If it is a relatively new table I'd contact the factory and see if they have had other problems.

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