How Would You Fix This? ***UPDATE***

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Forum topic by cFurnitureGuy posted 11-05-2010 02:31 AM 2574 views 0 times favorited 53 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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145 posts in 3719 days

11-05-2010 02:31 AM

see new pics in replies below for an update on this project!!

Today i aquired a new project and i need some input from eveyone!

The owner of this antique wash stand asked if i could fix the top and refinish the top to match the rest of the stand. of course i said yes
This wash stand was built in 1903 and sometime since the top started to warp. someone had tried screwing the top from underneath but eventually it even pulled all the screws out of the wood!! The current owner said that in the winter when they light the fireplace and the air gets dry the top warps twice as bad as it is in the photos.

the top is cracked in 2 places and was filled with some putty which i have already dugout. So How would you go about fixing this? i think my first would be steam the top and clamp it down flat for a while. after that…. i think i have a plan but i would like to hear some advice from experience! thanks for any help!!!

-- Justin, Savannah,Ga

53 replies so far

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3466 days

#1 posted 11-05-2010 02:39 AM

I think you are on the right track with the steaming. After it is pulled back flat(?) I think I would cut a relief in the middle. It’s hard to tell what the top wood was from the pictures but I would bet it was made from something like elm that has a tendency to twist. If you don’t relieve the stresses in it, it will do the same thing again. Just MHO.

-- Life is good.

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3645 posts in 3652 days

#2 posted 11-05-2010 02:44 AM

Remove the handles and drive a new cabinet under it. J/K, I’m not sure what you could do to fix that, other than cutting blind dados along the bottom of the top, like you would do if you were making a curved panel, but in reverse. That’s a ton of twist to remove.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

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1812 posts in 4266 days

#3 posted 11-05-2010 02:48 AM

That is a real bad roll top!

Steam it and add some weight. Something needs to be done so that it doesn’t roll up again in the future, and I am not sure one relief cut will be enough. The other thought is to scrap the current top and make a new one, but there goes the value of the antique. After you have it flat, why not cut out the center of the top and insert some mdf or other type of wood that will stiffen the outer frame and prevent it from twisting again. That way you will have the appearance of original and the rigidity of new.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

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Bob #2

3810 posts in 4565 days

#4 posted 11-05-2010 02:49 AM

Use the top as a pattern and cut a new section.

I know it sounds like cheating but you will have a satisfied customer and probably a better more stable piece.

p.s. there is a difference between “antique” and “old”.

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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145 posts in 3719 days

#5 posted 11-05-2010 03:03 AM

my thought was to steam it and clamp it flat… as possible
then cut a handful of slots in the underside of the top and glue in strips of hardwood to hold it flat.
The slots would be cut across the grain of the top. does that make sense?

-- Justin, Savannah,Ga

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3902 posts in 4240 days

#6 posted 11-05-2010 03:04 AM

I did a small one with steam and the glue let go and it did not remove the curls, I had to make another top.

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3902 posts in 4240 days

#7 posted 11-05-2010 03:06 AM

Funny that only the top is damaged, may have had water dripping on the top.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3828 days

#8 posted 11-05-2010 03:08 AM

Justin, Obviously there is a lot of stress in that top and not sure the best way to tell you to cure the problem, but first I would remove the top and look at it very closely to see how it was glued up originally. How many boards? was the growth rings staggered? was any of the boards over 5” wide?..........just a few thing to look at. Do you have enough overhang on the front and/or back to allow to cut the top apart (and lose the saw kerfs) and still be wide enough to glue it back together. If you cut it apart, could you get away with staggering the boards or is the bottom of the top such that you couldn’t do that (screw holes, not planed, etc). If you can’t work with the original top, then Bob#2 probably has the best solution…...Make a new top. Personally, I would probably just go with a new top and solve the problem. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

-- John @

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3466 days

#9 posted 11-05-2010 03:18 AM

My initial thoughts were that he wanted to use the original top, however after looking at the pictures and thinking about it, I agree with the others, make a new top. That way it probably won’t “come back to haunt you” from the owner. He shouldn’t object as obviously it’s junk at the moment.
Like huff says, let us know how this ends up.

P.S. that is one ugly paint job <g>

-- Life is good.

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2632 posts in 3540 days

#10 posted 11-05-2010 04:08 AM

If I were asked to do this:
First remove the towel bar. Take the top and make thin (panel blade) saw cuts iwth the grain about 1” apart.
Adjust the blade about 3/4 of the thickness of the top. Start and stop about 2” from each edge, you do not want saw cuts exposed if possible. Wet the top and place it on a flat surface with weight on top till it dries. (Make sure the board is wet enough so the remaining wood bends and does not crack when you are trying to get it flat)
There is probably enough framework from the underside to glue and screw the top back on.
If there is not enough frame underneath you could also put strips from underside in between the web frame.(Across the grain )
If you want, practice on another piece of hardwood to get familiar with how deep a cut and how wet you will need.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View CampD's profile


1791 posts in 4029 days

#11 posted 11-05-2010 04:09 AM

1st Clue,
“The current owner said that in the winter when they light the fireplace and the air gets dry the top warps twice as bad as it is in the photos”
A lot of furniture made in that period had a laminated top with a softwood core, cutting relief groves in
it will only weaken it.
No matter what you do to try to get it flat, it will come back. was probably the type of paint they used.
Build a new top out of solid hardwood.

-- Doug...

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16284 posts in 4761 days

#12 posted 11-05-2010 04:20 AM

If you (or the customer) are dead set on saving the top, your plan sounds as good as any to me. Personally, I’d write it off as a lost cause and make a new one.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View cabmaker's profile


1745 posts in 3352 days

#13 posted 11-05-2010 04:25 AM

I would glue up a new substrate probably poplar and veneer it on top and seal the bottom. That edge profile should be pretty easy to duplicate. Good luck with it.

View KnotWright's profile


258 posts in 4031 days

#14 posted 11-05-2010 04:29 AM

Looking at the top, it shows a lot of stains, so you should take that into account before you spend a lot of time trying to bring it back flat. If your customer likes the stains and just wants the original top back flat, then I would proceed.

Personally if I were trying to flatten it, I would turn it upside down and then take a damp / wet bath towel and lay it on the bottom side for a couple of hours. Once it was soaked, set the piece out in the sun and check on it about every hour until its almost flat, then bring it back inside and used some 2×4’s on edge and some clamps to bring it back flat and let it sit for a few days until its completely dried, then glue where necessary and the seal the back side. Then reattached the top.

I’ve used the wet towel and sun method a few times with good success.

Best of luck which ever direction you try.

-- James

View Mario's profile


186 posts in 3939 days

#15 posted 11-05-2010 04:31 AM

Justin, don´t want to spoil it for you but this amount of cupping clearly shows severely stressed wood that has been working itself to this shape for decades. Even if you steam it agressively and place it in a press it will cup again in a very short time. If the owner still wants to keep the original top you could rip it into narrow 1” strips, joint them, and reassemble, maybe you will have to add a couple new strips to compensate for the lost width. I think this would be a good way to break the overall stress and maintain the original top as wholesome as reasonably possible.

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