How to fix broken table top without any tools – DIY tutorial

Repairing broken furniture without tools


Before the start I have to clarify some facts.

First of all: this is not a tutorial about repairing a table top; it is about a top of a dresser.
Second: this is not a tutorial at all; rather than ‘how-to-do-it’ this thing is more ‘how-I-did-it’ guidance based on my own experience.

And third, the last: you cannot fix a dresser top without any tools, I am afraid; you will need at least screwdriver.
All the above are just to pick up a search engine optimisation and attract more readers (boy, how cheeky are we). But it does not change a fact that we want to share very useful tips with you. Having this cleared let’s start.

1. The dresser with broken top

Some time ago we bought a vintage dresser with broken top. It was not broken in half, just split at one side on a joining of two planks.


First I removed the top, just undone six screws from underneath. Then, without second thought, I demolished it by breaking in two. It was easier than I expected, have done it with bare hands.

Only then I started to think.

2. The clamps

To fix any kind of wooden top professionally, no matter dresser or table, you would have at least wood planer to flatten and straighten the edges and woodworking clamps to fasten the pieces together. As we are not professional carpenters, we do not have professional tools. So we had to find a way around.

The most important tolls I was missing were clamps. I needed to fasten the pieces together in order to glue them. Browsing YouTube I came across very helpful tutorial. It shows the way the ancient diyers did do the job.

Basically the idea is to have two woodstripes with t-bars at each end. When you hammer them in opposite directions (at one side of the top you are working on), they will work as very effective clamps.

Isn’t that brilliant? This video really made my day. I even created a diagram to explain it in a nutshell…


3. The tools

The idea of DIY tutorial is to show how to make the thing themselves, using the basic tools anyone can find in one’s shed. So there you are:


1. Drill (optional)
2. Screwdriver and four wood screws
3. Two wood strips (a bit longer than a width of your top) and four blocks of wood (might be the cut-offs of the same wood strip)
4. Sanding paper on the long block of wood (again, might be the cut-off from the same strip)
5. Wood glue (in this case very strong bond polyurethane)
6. Belt sander (optional).

Bear in mind that number 1 (a drill) and number 6 (a belt sander) are really optional, you do not need them to finish the job, however they make your work much easier.

The drill (1) and the screwdriver with screws (2) were used to construct parallel clamps (3). I just recycled stripwood I have found on my sheds corner. Perhaps you will need to use a saw to adjust the length of the pieces.

4. The clamps – t-bar

The clamp is just a piece of stripwood with two t-bars at both ends. A t-bar itself is attached to the stripwood with only one screw, which is essential as it allows the block to rotate.

To make a t-bar is really easy, I created another diagram explaining the procedure (I just like diagrams). If you have a drill, you can make a hole in the block, it would make all thing a bit more professional, but basically step 2 is purely optional.


5. Mending the top

Before anything else, I needed to plane the edges. Without having any appropriate tools (this time for real) I was forced to use just a rough sanding paper. I used long piece of grit 80 paper, wrapped around a long piece of stripwood (4). I used this for sanding along the length of the top’s edges. Doing this way I was sure to achieve straight cutting line, which – in other situation – I would make with a wood planer.

Using the clamps I put two pieces of the top together. I used the Soudal’s polyurethane glue (5), whose very useful feature is that it creates a kind of foam when drying. This way it penetrates and fills more of the cracks and holes than regular PVA glue.

I did not take any pictures during this process, but the video I have attached above is self-explaining. Below you can see the effect of my work.

DIY-tutorial_fix-broken-table-top-without-tools_07 DIY-tutorial_fix-broken-table-top-without-tools_08

6. Finishing

The last steps after the top dried up was just sanding the surface (I used a belt sander (6), but obviously you can do it by hand) and staining with a dark oak stain. Below you can see the top before and after my works.

DIY-tutorial_fix-broken-table-top-without-tools_03 DIY-tutorial_fix-broken-table-top-without-tools_02 DIY-tutorial_fix-broken-table-top-without-tools_05

I hope you will find this article useful.


  1. Tracey Blake

    Hi Kat and Kris,
    when varnishing a large area would you recommend using a roller to prevent streaks?
    and how many layers did you do in general when creating a piece like this?
    thanks again Tracey

  2. Lee Moore

    This technique is fantastic. I have an Oak Gents dresser from my Grandad and I’m planning a refurb but the lift up top has the similar damage as your dresser – more separation of tongue and groove boards used in constructing the top. I have no clamps but this tip is so simple and easy. refurb back on track.
    Thanks 🙂


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