Repairing an End Grain Crack in a Table Top

A discussion (with pictures) of using epoxy to fill and patch small cracks in end grain. December 12, 2008

Hi all. I have to repair an endgrain crack out of a white oak table top. The crack (as seen) in the photo is perpendicular to the ring growth orientation and one is not totally through the thickness of the table (1 3/8).

My first approach to repair this is to use epoxy, then color mach the repair and then a color blending of the repair.

So my question is: since Iíve never used Epoxy to gap fill and/or repair cracks, what type and/or brand you recommend to go for this fix? Iím thinking of using ether the West system 105 + 205 or System Three Quickcure 5. But again, am I in the right orientation with epoxy fill? Is there any other epoxy brand to suggest for this?

Click here for full size image

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
How big is the table top? Thought I would jump in and prove my ignorance. From what I'm seeing, I would say that those cracks are related to stress in the wood being relieved. My inclination would be to rip the table at the cracks, re-glue, and refinish. I would think that it would be difficult to mask the repair otherwise.

From contributor C:
A thick edge band will hide the end grain, and stabilize it long term. The epoxies you are thinking about are probably fine, but you might not be through with the checking.

From contributor J:
Cross-grain edgebanding isn't going to stabilize anything long-term; it's just going to peel off.

From contributor H:
I'm with Contributor J. Rip it at the crack and re-glue and refinish. Screwing around with the epoxy and then trying to hide it will take more time than rip and refinish will. It will also relieve the stress that caused this crack to begin with.

From the original questioner:
Ripping it was not considered since the client wants to keep it simple as possible. This is a 48 x 96 Ė 1,3/8 white oak laminated slab.

My guess is as some of you though, some stress caused this. Again guessing, the stress has done its job and if you drill a tiny hole at the end of the crack, it should not go any further (normally, but again never assume )!

As for matching the repair, Iím quite confident it will never be noticed by those who are not aware of it. I can color match this quite close to no show!

Ripping it, sanding down the actual finish, jointing it, laminating the whole thing, wide belt sanding it to level, stain and finishing it is just much longer for me and the client agrees too. But gain woodworking is no science and thereís always going to be much advice and many opinions and approaches on this as many people can give their opinion.

From contributor C:
I agree with you that the cracks can be repaired using epoxy use any good grade of epoxy with glass bead to span the gap. I like to put a coat of paste wax beside the cracks to help in removing the excess epoxy without damaging the surrounding finish. A piece of masking tape on the bottom will serve as a dam to keep the epoxy from flowing out the bottom. I have repaired many cracks like this and never had one split again. It should take less than an hour to do the repair and finish touch up.

From contributor C:
Oops forgot to say that I have not found it necessary to drill a stop hole.

From contributor D:
I agree with contributor C that epoxy will be a good repair. As for the type of epoxy, use the West System as you mention or any regular epoxy. Five minute does not hold well at all, it is only a decent filler. The West and other epoxies are thin and will seep into the crack and bind it. Iíve done it more times than I like to admit, with no problems.

The edge band comment surely must have been a misunderstanding of the problem. Maybe a poor stating of the solution a breadboard end may offer. At any rate, stay away from tape or a cross grain construction unless you are prepared for the demands of same.

From contributor K:
To fix a crack like this I will use a shop vacuum on the bottom side of the crack to draw glue into the crack. It is very easy to draw glue into all areas of the crack. Some kind of glue that does fill gaps is best. Then simply re-clamp with a bar clamp or clamps lightly using wood shims to protect outside edge. Sometimes if the crack does not want to close with the clamps simply cut a shim with the same grain direction and place in the crack. Sometimes color difference can be used to appear as a natural flaw. If you still think that the crack will move add a let-in dovetail on the bottom side.

From contributor K:
Maybe I should explain the way I glue up cracks. Use a zip lock bag, add powder die for color (not uncommon to use a slight color variance on purpose), then add two part epoxy, mix in bag, snip end and apply. Suck glue into joint with shop vacuum. If concerned with glue going other places mask off and use Johnsonís paste wax on other area's prior to glue up. Place wax paper over and under joints for non stick with wood blocks and clamp on top and bottom. This makes for an easy razor cleanup before glue totally has hardened. Alcohol will usually take away most epoxies if it has not hardened. I have joints repaired this way that have been unbroken for over 30 years. Other area's may separate but not glue joint. Sucking the glue into the joint somehow has a way of getting into all the pores.

From contributor W:
If the stress has done its job and you don't have a need for lots of strength, you may consider using the thin cyanoacralate. I've stabilized knots and stress cracks in end grain, and used it as filler. It colors well and takes finish well. Just be sure to protect the areas you don't want to have to sand or scrape glue from.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
The cracks are due to the dry environment causing the ends to shrink, while the rest of the table remains full size. The cracks will potentially grow and will not be stopped by drilling a hole. If the cracks are at a glue line, then the failure was due to an excessive gap when it was glued.

The epoxy is a great idea, but if the ends continue to dry and shrink, a new crack will form to relieve the attempted shrinkage stress. At the least, wait until the shrinkage stops and you get the largest crack. If the crack is fairly wide, then cut a slot and use a spline.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor F:
I would drill right into the crack from the side of the table (not the top) and use glue and dowels. I usually go in 1"-2" past the end of the split. Mark your drill bit with painters tape to the set depth. Then it just needs to be sanded and refinished. I have done multiple split repairs this way and have yet to have a problem. It works great for season splits.