One of the first things I noticed about our Thor Four Winds 28z motorhome was a defect in the rear edge of the dinette table. While many RV'ers would probably not bother with such a repair, there is no reason not to make the motorhome as nice as it can be. This defect was most likely an original manufacturing defect, which does not help me form the best opinion of RV manufacturing workmanship.
In order to repair this defect, I plan on gluing the particle board top with some slow-cure epoxy. The slow epoxy will soak into the particle board and the result will be a strong bond - even perhaps better than the board itself.
The first step then is to remove the table from the RV and bring it inside to the shop. At the time of year I am doing this, the outside temperature is barely in the 40's, so a warmer envronment will allow the epoxy to cure faster (which is going to take 24 hours as it is).
After bringing the table top inside, I discovered a second defect on the other table end. The edge of the table is not flush, so the edging cannot fit flush with the table top. Since I am taking the time to fix the table, I might as well fix this defect as well. Me thinks the recreational vehicle industry has a long way to go in the quality department. Seems pretty non-existant to me.
The first step in making the repair was to carefully remove the edging. This can easily be done with a screwdriver. If done properly, you should be able to remove it without cracking the table. There is no need to remove the entire edging, and in fact - should you do so, it will be pretty difficult to align it when re-installing it. So, just pull back as much edging as needed.
Since there was a defect on both edges, I pulled back about 6 inches of edging from both ends using the same procedure.
While the edge on the left side of the table was not cracked, the edge did not fit flush as the underlying particle board was not flush. This is one time when having the proper tools comes into play, and I was able to use a flush cutting router bit and clean up the particle board edge.
As shown by the photo at the right, a flush cutting router bit has a ball bearing at the bottom which guides the cut. Since the overhang was at the top, running the ball bearing on the bottom piece allowed the router bit to cut the top piece of particle board flush with the bottom piece.
Other types of flush cutters exist as well - for example with a ball bearing on the base of the bit, which allows the bottom piece to be flush-cut.
After flush-cutting the particle board, I simply balled my hand into a fist and banged the edging back in place (a rubber mallet would also work). The result is a flush (or at least more flush) fitting edge... so this side of the table is fixed.
To fix the crack, I am using a West System Epoxy kit, item 101. This kit comes with two packets of epoxy, some gap filling powder, mixing stick, a bit of fiberglass, and other items. I will only be using the epoxy and mixing stick out of the kit.
While West System advertises the epoxy starts to cure in 5~7 hours, I have found that the best results are achieved if you allow for a 24 hour cure (at room temperature). The advantage of such a slow curing epoxy is a stronger bond, and deeper penetration into the wood.
You can find instructions for the West System 101 repair kit here.
So that I don't make an awful mess, I am using a glue syringe system. I found these glue syringes on eBay, but you can find similar syringes at well stocked boat or woodworking stores. These syringes have thick-blunt tips so you cannot stab yourself with them or use them for nefarious purposes.
Project gloves are recommended for this step as you may otherwise get epoxy all over everything, and it is not that easy to remove. And it is all but impossible to remove from clothing, so wear old clothes if you are prone to make a mess.
Unfortunately, the syringe is not reuseable as it is all but impossible to clean it of epoxy economically.
Apply the epoxy to the crack using the syringe, being careful to not use too much. It helps if you can force the crack open a bit - but make sure you don't use brute strength as you don't want to damage the crack any further. Remember - you have a couple of hours to do this, so no need to rush.
You may wish to use some blue painter's tape to protect finished surfaces when doing this step so any epoxy overflow won't mar the finish.
When you have sufficient epoxy in the crack, clamp it with a good woodworking clamp and set the table aside for 24 hours.
After the epoxy is sufficiently cured, simply bang the edging back into the slot similiar to how it was done for the other side. Any dribble of epoxy that finds itself on the raw particle board surface won't be noticeable, but if objectionable, you can sand it down so that it does not show. After a satisfied inspection, the table can be re-installed into the RV.
While this fixed the table, I keep thinking a solid Cherry table might be in the future. I have made several (boat) tables before so I am pretty adept at making them. Here are a couple of examples of boat tables I have made:
Items (or facsmiles thereof) used in this project: