Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Coming Unstuck

A couple of weeks back, I forewarned you of the dangers of leaving your workshop contents ‘un-prepared‘ for fluctuations in the British weather during the winter (see here). While cast iron can be cleaned of rust and protected again with relative ease, I also showed you an image of the drawers below my workbench; two of which had found themselves in a partially-open state and were refusing to budge. Yesterday, I decided to do something about this…

Above, I’m using one scrap of timber in leverage against another to force each of the jammed drawers, in turn, out of the opening. A highly tedious job that requires a lot of shifting left and right to gradually free each corner; inch-by-inch… Once it was out far enough, I was able to swing by rubber mallet and to speed up this removal process.

I should mention that the shallow, top drawer was fine, by the way. It was only the deeper drawers that had become stuck. I appeared as though the sides had expanded outwards, which is a bit odd, considering they’re  made of stable ash. Along with plane them down quite severely, I also took another 3mm off the width of the plywood drawer bottoms, just in case the wood was trying to expand against the reluctant ply, or something.

Regardless of whether or not I should actually call this good news, only one of the corner joints on the largest bottom drawer failed as a result of my brute force approach with the mallet. Actually, as the glue failed [both pins and tails remain unbroken] on this joint, I also realised that the tenonned front end of the central muntin, which supports both halves of the drawer base, had also popped out of its groove and needed re-inserting.

As yet, I haven’t attempted to re-glue either of these joints – it’s quite possible that any dried residue or excess left between the mating parts would affect the success of any application of fresh glue. So, I’m coming to believe that these joints may need further structural reinforcement (perhaps a dowel, or similar). Right now though, I just want to let the sides ‘do what they want’ for a couple of weeks, before I think about applying any new coats of oil. There is a danger here that the timber will expand again, since the sides are currently only ‘sealed’ (polished, finished) on their inner faces, leaving the outer sides exposed and vulnerable.

So, if ever you find yourself in a similar situation within your own workshop, I hope this post has given you some food for thought!

This is a typical problem associated with building a traditional chest of drawers, where the humidity within your workshop could vary by some margin, compared to environment where the item is going to spend the rest of its life. Assuming a more ‘delicate‘ approach would be the order of the day (!!), how would you go about this on a finished item of furniture that’s been hand-crafted and cared for?

In all of our projects, we can allow for the natural expansion and contraction of solid timber but, with a set of drawers, it seems as though we can’t always do enough…

Thanks for reading.

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2 responses to “Coming Unstuck

  1. Walnut Weasel 28/01/2011 at 18:29

    It is good to see that you only had one minor failure while forcing them open. For a piece of shop furtinure I would have used the same approach. If it was a piece for the home, I think I would have just sulked about a few months until the humidity dropped and they hopefully released themselves!

  2. Lazy Larry 28/01/2011 at 20:53

    You did not use a large enough persuader… lol…. I too would resort to brute force.

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