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One of the most common repairs that find their way into the shop is leg repair on small tables. Small pegs, glue, and a few screws holding on the legs are usually sufficient for years of service. But inevitably the day comes when someone kicks a leg out, and you’re left with a three-legged dilemma. This table is such a case. Here’s how we fixed it.

When the joint gave way, two things happened — a piece near the joint snapped a bit of wood off at the screw, and the opposing screw ripped out of its seat in the bottom of the table. Queen Ann legs are both beautiful and delicate, but they’re often a bitch to match and replace, so fixing it was the best option.

The leg was easy. A little cleaning and some wood glue got the leg back in one piece. That was set in the soft jaws of a clamp to dry overnight.

Next was to survey the wreckage left behind from the leg exiting the seat. One screw hole was fine, so it required no attention.

The large seat peg hole needed to be sanded out lightly to remove all the old glue to make room for the new glue.

The hole that was ripped to shreds was another matter. I dabbed in some wood glue in the area then stuffed a cotton swab in to rout out the excess and push the glue into the cracks and irregularities and let it set overnight. This just keeps it from separating anymore than it already is.

After the allotted 24-hour period it was time to mate the estranged leg to its table for the second time in its life. A generous helping of wood glue was set into the peg hole and the leg set in its place. The threads of each screw got a bead of Gorilla glue and were hand-cranked into a snug fit. The glue would hold the peg as before, and as the Gorilla expanded against the screw and wood it would lock the threads in place snugly, even in beat-up wood.

My friend’s table was again back up to four legs and shows no wobble or grievous wound from the encounter. The only outward signs there had even been an incident is the small crack line in the top of one leg, which couldn’t be helped without refinishing or replacing the bottom piece.

I should also take this opportunity to point out that this was a functionality repair on a table that, while valuable to its owner, is not a museum antique or priceless piece. If you’re concerned about how a repair will affect the value of a piece of furniture, consult an antique repair professional who deals in period-correct restoration.

 

10 Responses to How-To: Leg Repair For A Queen

  1. JR says:

    I would have reached for my dark brown wood glue to better help hide the crack (sold at Woodcraft, etc..). otherwise, nice repair article…

  2. Sean O'Hara says:

    Great observation and I would certianly have done so had I had some at hand, but this was a sort of rush job and in the second to final pic you can see there is no glue showing 🙂

    Totally agreed about the colored glue though.

  3. johnnyp says:

    Dowels that have shrunk, wrap with a thin piece of cloth and glue. Trying to match a stain ,
    instant coffee or tea, to dark add more water

  4. Andy says:

    Just to be clear, you’re relying on expanded gorilla glue to hold screw threads? If that’s indeed the case, I hope this table won’t see any rough use… The expanded foam of polyurethane glue has very little strength – try driving a screw into a dried blob of extra glue, and then pull it out. Or just imagine wiggling that screw around occasionally, and bumping into it, and try to imagine it holding longer than a year! For any real furniture that you expect to last, screw threads directly into solid wood should be a bare minimum requirement (if proper joinery wasn’t possible). If you’re set on using glue in this situation, a good epoxy would be the only option with any meaningful strength.
    My suggestion for repairs like this would be to drill out the shredded hole, ideally with a forstner bit, but a regular 1/2″ twist or brad point bit should work too. Then glue a tight-fitting plug (1/2″ dowel?) into that hole, so you’re effectively starting with fresh wood. After the glue dries, drill a pilot hole for the screw and re-install the leg as you described. This still wouldn’t be ideal, but it’d be a lot better than betting on the strength of polyurethane foam to hold your heirloom together, and it wouldn’t take THAT much longer than your initial repair.
    I realize this was a rush job, and isn’t a museum piece, but in this humble woodworker’s opinion, the repair you described should be considered temporary at best.

  5. Sean O'Hara says:

    Nope, not expecting the glue to hold the screw just more of a small thread-lock. Didn’t want the leg to be perma-welded to the base just a little extra hold. If I wanted that much extra security I’d prolly have busted out the 18ga and driven 1 inch brads then filled the holes. But again didn’t want to start altering the table too much. 🙂

  6. fred says:

    Looks like a “best you can do” repair to a poorly designed and constructed piece of furniture. Screws and what looks like a stubby dowel at the top of a leg to secure it to a table? The traditional construction for the legs would have them shaped from a length of wood with a square cross-section. The top of the leg would have remained as a block into which mortises would have been cut on 2 adjoining faces. The mortises would accept matching tenons of a rectangular frame that would support the top.

  7. ambush says:

    The screws are just there to keep it from wobbling, the peg is the primary mechanical connection. I would have probably just filled the hole, but I’m not even close to an expert.

  8. Ray says:

    I have a carved queen anne leg that snapped halfway up the leg. Would you recommend drilling pilot holes and gluing/screwing the pieces together with hidden screws?

  9. Earline Fulton says:

    I have a queen leg that is made of one center leg and a piece on each side of the leg to give it a nice full look where it connects to vanity. The leg is seperating where it connects to the center leg. The leg is not built into the vanity, but attached on the bottom, thus the leg is starting to spread out from under the vanity. Do they made a metal bracket that will screw into the three pieces of the leg and screw to the under side of the vanity. Thank you

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