Repair/reinforcement of double pedestal desk

I would like to repair and reinforce a 1930's Lincoln double pedestal office desk to use as a base for a metalworking lathe. The desk appears to have been made by the Commercial Furniture Company of Chicago. It's well-used but no wood is broken, however one mortise and tenon joint in a leg has come apart.
It's not obvious to me how to disassemble it for repair, nor what adhesives to use. Since it was mass-produced, I'm hopeful that somebody will know how to get it apart without further damage. Web searches came up empty, so the subject is obscure or I didn't use the right keywords.
One curious thing (to me) is that many of the plywood panels in drawer bottoms and pedestal sides appear to be free-floating in their rabbets. Seems that the desk would be much stronger if they were glued in place. Did they just come loose over time?
The desk is nice enough that I don't want to butcher it, but since it was sitting by the curb with a "free" tag on it it's unlikely to be a treasure warranting museum treatment.
Thanks for reading,
bob prohaska
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On 8/8/2017 8:25 PM, bob prohaska wrote:

Why not post a couple of photos of it just in case? People have tossed some real treasures due to lack of knowledge.
I don't think it would be my first choice for a lathe in any case.
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Probably a good idea, it'll provide an opportunity to show the damage as well. In the meantime I hope somebody chimes in with some guidance on how it went together. It's rather surprising there isn't more info on the Web, the Commercial Furniture Company was apparently a big deal at one time.

Mor is it mine, but it's an improvement over the existing bench.
Thanks for replying!
bob prohaska
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On Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 7:30:07 PM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:

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The top should separate from the pedestals'assembly fairly easily. If ther e's not any fasteners readily visible on the exterior, then they are inside the carcass, inside the drawers. Probably metal fasteners, like "L" brac kets.
Once the top is off, the two pedestals are held together by a spanning elem ent (panel), between the two. Again, there is likely metal fasteners hold ing the spanning element to each pedestal.
If there is no visible fasteners, look closely for a screw site. The scre w may be recessed, with a plug hiding the screw head. The spanning panel would likely have to be fairly thick, to have recessed screws, that way.
I think you would need to remove the top and probably the spanning panel, b efore you can properly access the damaged leg(s). I would think there is more than one M&T joint along each leg and, if one is disjointed, then the other has likely been compromised, as well.
The general design of almost every double pedestal desk is very similar. Rather than google Lincoln pedestal desk, try oak roll top desk. I highly suspect your desk is assembled, basically, the same way, in some similar fa shion.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VpXtbgHXMg

Once your basic assembly is disassembled, then you can address the assembly (repair) of any individual part. If your desk is assembled differently, in some unique way, then maybe you have some special piece of furniture.
Yep, pics would definitely help.
Sonny
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On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 7:07:54 AM UTC-5, Sonny wrote:

Maybe look for some top attachment as this assembly:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s18_azBhkP0

Sonny
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Ok, I've put a few pictures at
http://www.zefox.net/~bob/lincolndesk/
There are metal clips, each with a single screw, under the edge of the top at the juncture with the legs, plus two in the middle of the ends. Evidently I should start by removing the screws to see if the top will then lift off.
The damaged M&T joint is at the occupant's far right. I'd imagine it was whacked on something while being moved. No other damage is apparent.
The lathe is an old South Bend 10K, about 300 lbs, with 48" bed. It will span the pedestals nicely. The reinforcement plan is to mount a false top, possibly a laminate countertop section, with the lathe bolted to that. I'm also contemplating bolting/screwing a sheet of plywood to the bottom of the desk, covering the foot-hole, to make a box structure. I believe that will offer considerable reinforcement.
Thanks to all for reading, looking and guiding!
bob prohaska
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wrote:

I looked at your pix. If it were me I'd wipe some thickened epoxy on the loosened tenon and whack it home. If you are a worrier, pin the tenon by drilling through from the outside and inserting a dowel or two. You could dowel the joints that aren't separated too.
You aren't planning on putting much of a load on it and the load will all be downward. That should have no effect on the pedestal structures separating. I am sure many will say, "No, no, you need to disassemble all, clean and reassemble so the thing has the approximate strength of a battleship". That is their opinion, not mine. Why do you think it needs reinforcement?
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Mostly I don't want to mount the lathe and then discover the desk is coming apart under it. It's relatively little work to add gussets and whatnot now, it'll be a lot more work later. There's also some good chance the lathe will get scooted around the garage on a jack to make clearance for other work from time to time. That's apt to be hard on the desk, no matter how careful I am.
Basically it's the ounce of prevention versus the pound of cure syndrome.
8-)
bob prohaska
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On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 12:09:07 PM UTC-5, dadiOH wrote:



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I vote epoxy and dowel, also.
That fracture full length - scrape off the dried glue and epoxy that dislod ged joint... maybe epoxy a block along the length, as well, is there's enou gh space. I think this is a close-up pic, which looks like a panel. The next pic (fracture top view) is, as you say, more clear of the situation. Again, I vote epoxy & pin.... minus the previously suggested block along th e length.
Medallion indicates 1930-1940, if you hadn't already known.
Desk top looks like it has been used as a work bench/table.
I'm gonna go out on a limb. The desk is in pretty good structural shape. Clean it up and refinish it, make it look like a desk, again. Place a new top over the original, without damaging the refinished top. The desk does n't appear to need reinforcing, for your lathe, so maybe rethink that.
As for as modifying the structure, for moving the lathe work desk/table, co nsider making a mobile base, with a foot lever to lift one end for lifting off the rollers on one end, then lowering the lever places the feet back on the floor. There is one or two guys... Jeff?, aka WoodChucker..., here, that has built a mobile base feature for their work benches or one of their tools.... I can't recall.
I'm partial to old furniture, that's why I would try to preserve the desk, itself, if reasonable. Just a thought of mine.
Yeah, and collect some 1930s - 1940s pennies and stash them in your lathe c abinet, as well. *Additional medallions.
Sonny
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Continuing my conservative approach...
It's a production piece, probably not expensive, no significant provenance either of maker or owners (*other than present owner?), but seems to be wel l made. It has a simple, not complicated, exterior design.... quaint in o verall appearance. It's approaching 100 yrs old. There are likely very few of these particular style desk still in existence.
There's the maxim "Primum nil nocere", do no harm. I vote to, at least, g ive this some consideration with your modifications, if possible.
Sonny
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What are your thoughts on using hide glue? Epoxy seems counter to the principle....
I agree the piece is nice enough to be spared wanton hackery. It's also small enough to be used in a home.
There little doubt that drilling holes in the top is a bad idea, a false top a much better one. Whether I should brace the bottom is less clear, but if I do and use hide glue to fasten the brace it can be removed.
If I don't brace the bottom, overload the desk and other joints start to pop then I have a somewhat larger mess on my hands.
With my thanks!
bob prohaska
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On Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 11:07:34 AM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:

Hide glue is fine. If you can open the joint enough to clean it well, then reapplication of hide glue will do just fine. If you can't clean the join t well enough, epoxy might be your best adhesive option for a "dirty" joint , less than perfect(?) joint.


ut

The idea of a mobile base: If you can make a sufficient mobile base, such that to fit within the desk's legs, appropriately, and *all (conservation of the original (legs, structure) and maintain a solid support for your lat he)... and *all remain well, then you could possibly have the best of both worlds. I'm not sure what mobile base design might be best for your desk, that's why I mentioned other guys' having made mobile bases, that if a mob ile base is an option, they could possibly give you some ideas of construct ing one.
Sometimes when I'm making stuff, I end up adding to the original "work orde r".... create more work for myself, as a project progresses. A bad habit t hat I'm displaying, here. And now, I'm putting the burden of the proposed modification/design/construction, of the suggested mobile base option, on the other guys, here.
I'm out on that limb, now, and not quite sure how to real myself back in... . without some help.
I, simply, like old/older pieces and I get excited about preserving them, i n some fashion.
And I'm about to abandon you, as to any follow-up with *assistance. I'm l eaving for vacation, Saturday, so I won't be here to comment or encourage y ou, until September. But I suppose you'll do a good repair and modificati on job and keep the integrity of the desk as best intact, as you can.
Sonny
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This has me confused: I thought one point of hide glue is that it sticks to itself, so can be reapplied and reassembled. I thought it was synthetic glue that had to be cleaned off.
Do I have the story backwards?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, I hope it's justified!
bob prohaska
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On Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 6:42:55 PM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:

Correct. But if the joint has any other debris (dirt, sawdust, powder post beetle dust, etc.), clean it out if you can, then use hide glue. I can't see inside the joint as well as you, to see if there is any abnormal junk in the joint. If there is something abnormal in there, that can't be remo ved, then epoxy might be the better option for an adhesive.
As for as cleaning those drips, shown in pic "fracture full length", at fir st I thought that was a panel (you had mentioned loose panels). I thought to add a long block, along the *panel length, to help with that attachment . For the addition of a block, there, I meant to suggest removing the dri ps for the block to sit flat on the *panel.
Sonny
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Ok, that's a relief. The joint is clean end-to-end.
I now have to decide what glue to use and order it. Nothing seems available at local retail.
Have a good vacation, and thank you!
bob prohaska
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On 8/11/2017 4:36 PM, bob prohaska wrote:

Keep in mind also that if the joint is cleaned out beyond snug, you make the tenon a touch smaller or the mortise a touch larger, you will want to shim to fill the cavity. Few glues have a gap filling feature that is strong.
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The fit seems quite good; No material seems to have been lost, it was a clean fracture through the glue, apparently. I'd be hard pressed to improve it.
A local art supply shop offered to order a half pound of rabbit glue, which is hard to resist, both for price and the fact that I'm fixing a rabbet joint 8-) It turns out there's no separate tenon in the cross members, they are milled to match the edge of the center panel.
The stuff is sold as sizing for painter's canvas, but from what I've read most people seem to consider it a reasonably good glue, somewhat less brittle than cabinetmaking hide glue. I'll make a few test joints before using it for keeps.
If anybody thinks this is a gross folly please warn me.
Thanks for reading!
bob prohaska
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On Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 3:20:17 PM UTC-7, bob prohaska wrote:

Yeah, that or hide glue is the best solution, because on this vintage of furniture, it's gonna stick even if the original (also hide glue) adhesive isn't all cleaned out.
Beware, though, it's usually a kind of hot-melt glue, you'll need a glue pot and hotplate and have to assemble before it hardens.
If one joint has gone brittle and failed, perhaps others are brittle but have not yet failed.
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Since it's only one joint I'll try a hot plate and water bath with a thermometer. A few test joints on scrap wood ought to provide a sense of how it handles. I'm near Sacramento, CA, so keeping things warm is easy, just put them in the sun. The trick then is sticking the joint before _I_ melt 8-)

That's a reasonable concern. Far as I can tell all the other joints in the piece are sound. The one that failed most likely broke when somebody skidded the desk and snagged the leg; there's considerable scuff damage to the feet.
Thanks for reading,
bob prohaska
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On 8/9/2017 12:38 PM, bob prohaska wrote:

I have a Southbend 9A I would recommend you pick up a oil plan , the type you slide under the car to catch drips. Mine is always full of oil from the cutting oil.
http://woodchucker.imgur.com/
That desk has no value other than what value you put in it. If you have MT that are loose, see if you can pry it open slightly and use heat to re-activate the hide glue in there, then clamp it If not see if yellow glue will bond it. Epoxy will also work. You can dowel peg the MT to keep them tight, don't use big honking dowels, use small ones that hold the Tenon in the Mortise.
--
Jeff

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