What should I know before trying to rehabilitate my desk?
September 10, 2015 7:49 PM   Subscribe

The huge pane of glass that was my desk's main surface broke, and I'd like to replace it. The return (also glass) is still in decent shape and I'd like the main desktop to match it as much as possible in hue and the shape of the edge. How much can I expect to pay for a suitable 7'×3' piece of glass, is there anything non-obvious I should ask about, and does anyone happen to know good glaziers in the Cambridge, MA area, or how to look for one besides flipping through Yelp?

The desktop is supported by 2 wooden pieces with a brushed-aluminum laminate: a file cabinet, and a round post. The file cabinet sits to my left at the front of the desk, and the desktop slides into a slot on the right-rear of the file cabinet, leaving the top surface of the file cabinet available. On the right side the desktop is supported by the post, placed just in on the right, equidistant front-to-back (and the post has a similar slot in it which the return slides into).

I would have expected the desktop to be tempered but when it broke it ended up in two solid pieces, so I think not. Other than that bizarre incident (foolishly attempting to restore a friend's MacBook, causing vibration and a lot of heat at a focused point) it held lots of weight just fine, so I think I'm okay risking it again, especially since IIRC tempering makes it shatter at the cost of being slightly weaker. I can't match the return exactly because I think it's slightly thinner.

Bonus points if anyone can suggest a good way to reattach the metal sheet to the round post: it keeps popping loose and sproinging outward, and it's got enough tension I can't even push it to match the curve of the post, plus I don't know what glue or epoxy or whatever to use, or how to hold it while it sets.
posted by vsync to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
If you post some photos of the whole desk and of the bonus question detail you will probably get much better answers.
posted by ssg at 7:53 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You need to designate a thickness, not just width and length. Window glass is a lot thinner than what you need.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:04 PM on September 10, 2015

Always check out Pier 1 for pre cut glass for tables and etc. That desk piece may be more common than you think. Two pieces might also work, 3.5 feet by 3". Find your most local glazier with a long history in the neighborhood. They will be more reasonable. Look directly on the web for 7' x 3" x 1/2 inch glass. Sometimes the manufacturer has replacements.
posted by Oyéah at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2015

Response by poster: Photos! You can see I've got the right side propped up by some boxes, and a few magazines on the left to even it out. The glass should be resting on that post to the right, which should be forward relative to the desktop. That tape wasn't sufficient to hold the metal sheet in place except the small band above the slot for the glass return.

I think it's a little thicker than half an inch, maybe 5/8ths. I don't really have a good way to measure the inside of the slot, which I imagine should be snug. Some glaziers say they can come on-site, and maybe I don't have a choice about that.

I have no idea who the manufacturer was or what store I purchased it from 15 years ago.
posted by vsync at 9:31 PM on September 10, 2015

Tempered glass is actually stronger than normal (plus it breaks in a less dangerous way, as you note). Unfortunately, custom cut tempered glass is expensive. You can't cut the glass once it has been tempered, so you have to cut the glass to size and then temper it.

If you just want normal glass, any shop should be able to do that for you.

For the re-attaching the metal to the post, your best bet is probably some ratchet straps or cam straps (like you'd use to attach something to a car roof rack) used as clamps, possibly with a 2x4 as a spacer to keep the ratchet or cam from damaging the surface. Epoxy along the edges and zig-zagging lightly through the field should do it.
posted by ssg at 10:04 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

My family owns a custom-cut architectural glass business and does this type of work often. The thicker the glass, the more expensive it is. I would suggest tempered glass, because there's that area in the center where your legs reside, and if the glass were to break, you don't want giant shards of 1/2" thick glass coming down on your legs.

For a 7' x 3 piece of 1/2" tempered glass, I would expect that to run several hundred dollars.

But, if you're okay with risking it as you said, it'll be cheaper. I requested quotes from them so you can get a good comparison going (I'll MeMail you), we're located in north NJ, so probably not too much of a difference in market pricing.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:25 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Note the bevel on the glass. If you want that -- the 45° beveled corners you have on the edge -- you'll have to specify that as well. And, given that it's a desktop, I think you would.

I can see why it's not tempered. My dad, a glazer, said "never put tempered horizontal without guards." The edge is the weak point on tempered glass. With that desk, you're putting the weakest part of tempered glass right where it's most likely to take a hit. On regular glass, that would cause a chip. On tempered glass, that shatters the entire thing.

But given the way it broke, I suspect it's not supported enough. A middle leg would keep the weight of the glass from bowing it in the middle and probably keep this from happening again. Another way would be another piece of glass below it, turned 90°; and glued to it -- like the return -- to act as a brace.

To measure the inside of the slot, get a stack of index cards, and take one away until the stack just fits, the measure the stack. It won't be a perfect measure, but it'll be well within the tolerance the glass company needs to work with, most of this is done to 1/32nd of an inch at worst, 1/64th at best.
posted by eriko at 6:28 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older What sci-fi or fantasy books should I read next?   |   Flying out of MSP Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.