Last weekend Cam and I picked up this Dyrlund coffee table. It took a little convincing to get her on board when I said I wanted to bring it home with us, but she had good reason to be skeptical. To summarize, the legs could barely support the weight of the top, much less a glass of scotch, a remote control, and my feet. It was a mess and would need to be completely reconstructed. Seemed like fun to me, but I was not fully aware of what I had gotten us into when we loaded it into the car. Unfortunately and as always, I forgot to snap a pic of the whole thing before getting to work, but the next two shots should give you an idea of what we were working with:
Basically, some poor dude thought it was a good idea to disassemble and then reglue all of the joints of this table with Gorilla Glue. That was his first mistake, and in his attempt to rectify this fatal error, he nearly destroyed this pretty cool, pretty rare table. I’ll get to that in a sec…
But first things first. I HATE GORILLA GLUE. (Note – I intentionally neglected to add a link here.) I’m sure there’s a decent use for this stuff, and I’m sure it rightfully earned its place next to my first love, 5-min Two-part Quick-set Epoxy on the shelves at ACE Hardware, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t lost on me. I certainly have never seen its applicability to furniture or fine woodworking, much less ever brought a bottle of Gorilla Glue into my home or shop… Huh, diatribe… Anyway, the problem with this stuff is actually very simple: GORILLA GLUE EXPANDS WHEN IT DRIES. That’s right, it expands, which is pretty much the last thing you want when you’re shooting for tight, precise joints in anything. So here’s what I imagine went through that poor dude’s head when he tried to repair this coffee table:
“Ooh, got those joints cleaned up and now they’re perfect. This table is gonna look awesome when I’m done with it. Just apply a little Gorilla Glue along these joints, like this. Clamp them together… Oh wait, this leg geometry is impossible to clamp. Honey?! Bring me some tape! Guess I’ll have to use tape to hold it together, just like… oh god, it’s expanding. Why is the glue expanding?! …Oh, no… The glue pushed the joints apart and now there’s like a quarter-inch gap here, an eighth-inch gap over there?! What happened, what have I done? It was perfect like eight minutes ago! My wife is gonna kill me! This thing looks like junk now. I should have just left it alone…. Well, now that the glue is dry, will it at least all go back together? Oh no, now the dowel pins don’t align! (Dowel pins align each pair of legs with a crossmember that mounts the legs to the bottom of the base.) Guess I’ll drill out one of the dowels and relocate it so things will align again… Well that kinda worked. But it looks awful. Think I’ll just hide it in the garage for the next five years.“
All the forensic evidence points to a storyline like this. And, no, I have never gone through that myself because, luckily, someone a long time ago told me that the best glues shrink as they dry. Well, ‘best glue’ is probably subjective to the individual and to the application in question, but when it comes to furniture and to woodworking, I think the rule suits pretty well. You see, when a glue shrinks as it dries, it tends to pull the parts of a joint closer together, resulting in a tighter assembly. Truth be told, I only keep two adhesives in my shop, and they are (1) Tightbond Original Wood Glue, and (2) Loctite Quick-Set Epoxy. (But I’m sure most standard wood glues and/or two-part epoxies would do just fine.)
So now that we’ve gotten through the sticky stuff, I’ll wrap it up with the Dyrlund. Cam and I spent the better part of an afternoon chiseling Gorilla Glue off of the joint faces. Several… many hours later, we used a combination of wood glue and epoxy to reassemble the legs - wood glue for the tighter joints and epoxy for the rest. We would love to say that we made everything perfect, but the damage was already done years ago and we just didn’t have the wherewithal or the tools to make those joints as tight as they were when this piece left the factory. But I’d say we ended up about 90% there. There is just a balance you have to meet between greatest environmental stability, which you get with wood glue, and strongest joints, which you get with epoxy when the joints weren’t very tight when you started. All in all, though, it’s made for a really, really strong table.
Oh, and remember that dowel pin that the poor dude moved? Well, we moved it back too. We finished up with 220-grit sandpaper over all surfaces, including the underside of the top, followed by two coats of Watco Teak Oil. Note that Watco Teak Oil is not the same as the colored Danish Oils we’ve used in the past. Teak oil does not include colorants, which seemed appropriate for the Dylund which already had a very pretty color. There are also a lot of Dyrlund dining tables out there that look very similar, and we wanted this coffee table to match in case it ever finds a bigger brother. Now that’s it’s done, we really love this table. Not sure yet where to put it, but the damn thing looks awesome with a bunch of green shell chairs around it. Pic of that coming soon – promise.