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Cracks in oak table top - What would you do?

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Forum topic by chelmick posted 02-21-2020 05:11 PM 1037 views 0 times favorited 41 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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chelmick

6 posts in 45 days


02-21-2020 05:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: crack epoxy repair question tip oak router milling finishing

Hey guys! The name is Chase and I am posting on the Lumber Jocks website for the first time today seeking some advice. I have been woodworking for a couple years now as a hobby and the majority of my builds have been things like coffee tables made from doug fir or credenzas and nightstands made from baltic birch. So I guess I would say nothing too big or complicated to date.

Recently I was asked to build a custom dining table and I wanted to use this as an opportunity to really challenge myself as a woodworker and take my skills to the next level. I came up with this oval dining table that I was going to build with red oak.

I went to my local supplier to get the wood, which they claim is kiln dried to 6-8% mc and personally examined to meet quality standards – if they wouldn’t use it, they wouldn’t sell it. I don”t have a mc meter, but I did visually inspect every board looking for obvious things like cracks, knots, warping and everything looked good to me.

I let the wood sit at my place for a few days and acclimate before I did anything with it. After a few days I did an initial milling of the wood, stickered it and let it sit for another day or two before milling to the final dimensions. Still, at this point everything looked good to me so I glued them up into two smaller panels before gluing them up into one large panel which was about 66”L x 44”W x 1”T.

At this point I was ready cut my first oval. I was nervous, but I welcomed the challenge and for the most part it came out great. It looked great, but this was when I started to realized that something was wrong and that brings me to where I am stuck at today.

After cutting the oval I noticed that one of the boards had a crack at each end on the underside of the table top. At the surface they don’t appear to be very big, I got this far and had no idea that they were even they. The cracks do not go through the top and are not visible from the top side.

This is the first crack and the ones that appears to me to be more severe. It looks like it is a little over half an inch deep and extends maybe 10 inches into the table, but it is very hard to tell. When viewed in the low-raking light the extent of it becomes more apparent.

This crack is on the other end of the same board and appears to be the same depth, but only extends a few inches in to the board.

At this point I am not sure what to do. I know for certain that I cannot deliver it to my customer in this condition knowing that the crack will likely get worse. What options do I have? Cutting that board out and replacing it with a new one would be very difficult and in my opinion is very risky – I would like to save this board if possible.

The two options that I can think of are:
1. Using my router and a straight edge to cut a dado that would at best case remove the cracks or at worst case show that the cracks are even worse than I thought. I would then mill a piece of identical wood to fill in the dado. It would not look great, but this is the underside and if I can remove the cracks then they cannot continue to grow.

2.Try to do something with epoxy. My biggest concern is that my customer wants a dark stain on the table and I do not believe the epoxy would allow the wood to take the stain. The other concern is that the cracks are so small right now that it would be difficult to get the epoxy to completely penetrate the cracks.

I feel very defeated with this project right now and it is times like these that I question woodworking. Getting the top milled, glued up, and cut into an oval was a huge accomplishment for me and now here I am out a good chunk of money with a top that I do not want to deliver to my customer as it sits. I am hoping that maybe someone has dealt with this before and can offer some advice or words of encouragement.

-- Chase, Ohio


41 replies so far

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

2633 posts in 1283 days


#1 posted 02-21-2020 05:46 PM

There is a product that people seem to like a lot called Milliput. It is epoxy putty that comes in a variety of colors. Never used it but folks seem to like it.

Otherwise, some kind of thinner epoxy resin like Total Boat or West System to penetrate and fill the crack. If you’re worried about the crack getting bigger you could always put a bow tie inlay on the bottom.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View LesB's profile

LesB

2420 posts in 4123 days


#2 posted 02-21-2020 06:07 PM

First, you say the cracks are in the same board; do they line up so you could saw them out in one pass of the saw? Then you could glue the board back together.

If it were mine the first thing I would do is treat the cracks with CA glue. It not only fills the crack it bonds the two sides together; something epoxy putty may not do. The medium thick type would do the job because it cures fairly slowly which allows it to seep into the crack. Just keep adding more until it the crack slightly over fills. When is sets up just sand it flat. With a crack that small I doubt it will be noticeable even in a dark stain but there are colored CA glues (usually black or brown) available, Amazon sells some. You could also put the stain on first then add the glue, the clear glue would transmit the color of the stain. I really think this will solve your problem and stop the cracks from developing further with the caveat that if the table is exposed to extremes in humidity nothing wil stop the wood from moving and possibly cracking.

-- Les B, Oregon

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5683 posts in 3031 days


#3 posted 02-21-2020 06:12 PM

Is the top attached to the base?

-- Bondo Gaposis

View avsmusic1's profile

avsmusic1

593 posts in 1365 days


#4 posted 02-21-2020 06:16 PM

I’m with LesB on CA to treat it as is, and i’d go about it exactly how he suggests.

I’m guessing the crack was there in the board and you may have just never noticed it when it was rough sawn. It’s unfortunate that it landed on the end of one of the boards and that, coupled with the fact it’s milled down, may be why you’re noticing it now. If that is the case, it may not be something born of moisture shifts since you’ve purchased it and therefore may not grow substantially if taken care of now.

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

2633 posts in 1283 days


#5 posted 02-21-2020 06:42 PM

Good ideas. My main reason for not suggesting CA is because CA won’t address the buggered up end of the table and CA has very poor shear strength so if the wood is still moving it may not have the strength to hold it together like epoxy resin or a butterfly would.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View chelmick's profile

chelmick

6 posts in 45 days


#6 posted 02-21-2020 06:44 PM


There is a product that people seem to like a lot called Milliput. It is epoxy putty that comes in a variety of colors. Never used it but folks seem to like it.

Otherwise, some kind of thinner epoxy resin like Total Boat or West System to penetrate and fill the crack. If you re worried about the crack getting bigger you could always put a bow tie inlay on the bottom.

- Andybb

I have never done a bow tie inlay before, but I was thinking that the underside of this table would be a cool place to try it! I want to be as conservative as I can with this and it seems like using a combination of epoxy and bow ties might be the best way to do that.

-- Chase, Ohio

View chelmick's profile

chelmick

6 posts in 45 days


#7 posted 02-21-2020 06:48 PM



Is the top attached to the base?

- bondogaposis

I have not attached the top to the base yet, but I was going to use buttons to attach it.

-- Chase, Ohio

View Planeman40's profile

Planeman40

1485 posts in 3441 days


#8 posted 02-21-2020 06:52 PM

I suggest putting a butterfly on the UNDERSIDE of the table that does not go all the way through to show on the table top. Then use CA to fill in the crack.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View chelmick's profile

chelmick

6 posts in 45 days


#9 posted 02-21-2020 06:52 PM



First, you say the cracks are in the same board; do they line up so you could saw them out in one pass of the saw? Then you could glue the board back together.

Unfortunately, the cracks do not line up. The other issue is that since this is oval shaped the two pieces would not line up properly if cut and glued back together due to the kerf of the saw.

-- Chase, Ohio

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

2633 posts in 1283 days


#10 posted 02-21-2020 07:13 PM

Personally, I’d avoid any cutting and gluing back together for the reasons you mentioned but that’s just me.

I use this kit for butterfly work. One or 2 practices on some scrap and you’re golden (as long as you have a router).

I know it can be done by hand but all of the ones I have done have been on the top so I wanted them to look good. You may not need to have them look perfect if it is on the bottom.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View YankeeFan's profile

YankeeFan

12 posts in 55 days


#11 posted 02-21-2020 07:15 PM

Hey Chase, nice job!!! I’m new to woodworking. What is that fixture for on top of the wood in the fourth pic from the top?. Also, in the photo with the router, what is that thingy called on the cord near the plug end. Thanks.

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

999 posts in 1639 days


#12 posted 02-21-2020 07:53 PM

We ran into those all the time when making 8/4 restauant tables. Best answer is to cut it out and glue back or to cut the crack out and fill in with an 1/8 piece. You will not beat it over time. Won’t go away unless you remove it entirety. ...

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1965 posts in 2863 days


#13 posted 02-21-2020 08:06 PM

Since this is a custom build for someone else, I would cut out that entire board and replace it, then recut the oval.

You sometimes see those kind of cracks in kiln dried lumber. I might be able to live with the fix and the chance the internal stresses will be completely counteracted by glue, but I wouldn’t be happy about that kind of fix in a custom piece I commissioned.

Maybe the glue will work for 25 years, maybe it’ll work for 2, maybe it won’t work at all. When all is said and done, this is red oak, not macassar ebony.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

2789 posts in 2478 days


#14 posted 02-21-2020 08:15 PM

This is where having a accurate jointer and top shelf handplane skills come into play.
Rip the wood right at the crack and glue in a piece to make up the kerf of your blade.
I agree with Jack in his post those crack will not go away.
This should only set you back a couple hours. If you don’t have the confidence or skills yet it so be it. It’s good practice for the future.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

13141 posts in 3060 days


#15 posted 02-21-2020 08:31 PM

Agree with Planeman, would butterfly both cracks and then fill the crack with CA or epoxy. Then play wait and see for a few weeks. If it cracks again, I’d replace that section and recut the oval.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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