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I have a 100+ year old dining table top that was built by an ancestor and has been passed down thru the family. It's made with alternating stips of Walnut, Maple and a third wood I haven't been able to identify completely. The design is concentric rectangles of 2" strips alternating the colors W,M,?, W,M,?, W,M,?, etc. I'm sure it was quite "psychedelic" in the period in which it was crafted, circa late 1800's.

I'll supply a picture as soon as I can.

I was told by a relative the table top was glued with fish glue? Despite it's age and various storage locations. My father and I refinished the surface several years ago. With humidity change over the years some of the longitudinal glue joints have seperated. The top is still relatively solid and stable except for a few of these seperations.

When we refinished the top I added a few reinforcing strips of hardwood spanning side to side spaced evenly to help support the massive weight of the table and to take some of the stress off of the joinery.

Any suggestions on how I might better stabilize the wood to prevent any further joinery/glue failure?

I thought about gluing in a complete panel of plywood underneath to form a new substrate for the top to rest on, but, I'm afraid it will significantly take away from the value and the appeal of the craftsmanship which can be clearly seen in the rough underside.

Suggestions appreciated.
 

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Welcome to the site!

My opinion, such as it is worth, is that I would not add plywood in an attempt to fix the problem. I think it would just make it worse.

Instead, I understand that glues that old can be softened with heat and steam. With hide glues I understand that to be true. I don't know if fish glues have similar characteristics. Try Googling Fish glues.

The point is to disassemble the portions of the table that are separating, glue them again (with plenty of clamping pressure) and watch it last another 120+ years.

You do need to watch for other, more mechanical fasteners that may have been used -- screws, nails, splines, etc.

Also, since it has such value to you and your family, it might be worth the cost to have it professionally refinished.

Do post pictures. I would like to see a "psychedelic" table from the late 1880's!

Again, welcome.

Greg
 
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Welcome to the site!

My opinion, such as it is worth, is that I would not add plywood in an attempt to fix the problem. I think it would just make it worse.

Instead, I understand that glues that old can be softened with heat and steam. With hide glues I understand that to be true. I don't know if fish glues have similar characteristics. Try Googling Fish glues.

The point is to disassemble the portions of the table that are separating, glue them again (with plenty of clamping pressure) and watch it last another 120+ years.

You do need to watch for other, more mechanical fasteners that may have been used -- screws, nails, splines, etc.

Also, since it has such value to you and your family, it might be worth the cost to have it professionally refinished.

Do post pictures. I would like to see a "psychedelic" table from the late 1880's!

Again, welcome.

Greg
I would only consider professional refinishing, or any refinishing, if it will prevent the table from disintegrating. In general refinishing an antique greatly reduces its value.

George
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Table pics

I posted some pics of this table top in my photos. I'd appreciate anyone's best guess on what they think this table top might be worth, strictly for insurance purposes.
 
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