Repairing Djbouti Wood Hand-Carved Table

By Jamie Yocono | Posted: 04/19/2013 12:26PM


When someone brought this hand-carved table to my shop for repair, and told me it was from Djbouti, my head started playing an endless loop of this song inside. When you're trapped working in a shop all day, it's easy to get silly about stuff like this; I make no apologies for this.

There was one slight problem - Djbouti is way more humid than Las Vegas, and when the table was transported here - it started losing moisture.

Within a month, huge cracks started developing.

In fact, one whole area broke off. This table needed some TLC.

We had a discussion about the table - and the chance that - given its construction and the moisture content of the log, this table was probably going to continue cracking.

Our best remedy was to separate the base from the top. The owner of the table decided that he would put a glass top on the base, which would probably remain stable and not crack any more.

And the top? I would try to repair it - and turn it into a wall piece.

I pulled out a thin kerf flexible saw and separated the top from the base. I rocked it with my wood-awesome-ness, because - honestly, you can't even tell the table top was once attached! The base actually looks better separated!

I touched up the tops of the three elephant trunks with a bit of sandpaper, testing the three points for "flatness" on my table saw top. Once it was perfectly flat, I stained the wood to match the rest. Phase one - completed!

The table top - now that's another story! It was in horrible shape - in fact, it's not very often that I say this - but I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to restore it. Then I remembered - a while back, my buddy Eddie gave me a set of burn-in shellac sticks.

And a burn-in knife.

Truth be told - I had to pull up a video on YouTube to see how these are supposed to be used. I think I learned about these in college, a hundred years ago.

One of the really helpful tips I learned was that the knife - if it's never been used - needs a little TLC. I lightly touched up the edges of it on some 400 grit paper, to eliminate any burrs.

The set of burn-in sticks supply you with just about every color you'll need for a repair. And the good news is - you can mix them together to create custom colors.

Basically, you plug in the knife until it heats up, and then melt a dab of the shellac onto the blade. I found it easiest to this while the blade was flat, so I could mix the colors together onto it - like a small palette.

Turn the knife sideways and the shellac drips down onto the tip of the knife, where you can direct the flow where you want it. They recommend that you use a shade to match the lightest color of the area you're repairing - but when I did that, it was too light and didn't match well at all.

A piece of blue tape acted like a dam, stopping the flow of shellac at the edge.

When the shellac cooled, I peeled off the tape and worked on smoothing out the shellac.

It took a few sessions to fill these cracks with the correct color - but the end result was WAY worth it.

You can barely spot the cracks in the wood.

Seriously - can you see them?

I don't often do repairs like this one, and I find them to be very stressful! I did a little dance around the woodshop (Shake, shake, shake....) when this repair was complete!

Jamie Yocono, Wood It Is! Custom Cabinetry, Las Vegas, NV

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