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How to Repair Old Chest of Drawers ?

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Forum topic by jfynyson posted 01-26-2016 04:59 PM 673 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jfynyson

21 posts in 331 days


01-26-2016 04:59 PM

Topic tags/keywords: photo links were in error and i added the video link since it was now ready

Hello, this is my first post on any woodworking forum and am using it to seek advice on how best to repair this old chest of drawers I got at a yard sale a few years ago. I hope my pics show up. I’m also trying to upload a few short videos of this piece to Youtube which once uploaded I’ll post the link here so you can better see this piece. I believe got it for around $20 or so (not sure). It was sitting in someones front yard and it was a guy’s older mother’s. He guessed it was from the 1920’s or earlier but not sure. Seeking any thoughts on it’s age as well…We wanted it to refurbish a bit for my son’s room. We love the old antique & rustic furniture as we have a log home and of course this piece fits well.

Here’s the piece w/o the top, which was just nailed on and bowed up in the front & back by about 2-3 inches !!! It was insane to look at (I wish I’d taken a pic before I removed the top). It measures 32-5/16” tall x 34-7/8” wide (forgot to measure the depth). It’s pretty level though and is stout from front to back if I push on it but the joints move a lot & sound “crunchy / crumbly” if I push it side to side. This is likely the sound of the mortise/tenon joinery that’s worn.

It’s been sitting in my shop, in my way, & gathering dust for far too long. It had rusted casters that I had to beat, pull, and drill out of the bottoms. There was only one full caster set up that made it so I took a pic for you. I do not wish to have casters in the end anyway.

1st thing is first – The Top
The top being very bowed “up” in the front & back make it difficult to flatten on as far as I would figure on how to repair it. If it were bowed down then I believe I could cut deep slits underneath the top, route in splines or bow ties, clamp it flat, and glue in wedges & the splines into the cuts. I’ve seen this done but the bow here is the opposite from that fix so I cannot cut into the top side. I could try this method then sand and refinish the bottom side of the top piece but then the patina wouldn’t match the rest of the piece. So, instead I pulled the top, removed the nails and clamped the side ends flat with the top side facing down, used heavy weight in the middle and sprinkled snow all over it and let it sit for a day then repeated. This worked great but as you can see once I removed the clamps and flipped it over I’ve still got a ways to go. So, I not have it clamped top side up and have more snow on it for a couple more days. (My workshop is insulated and I have heat running to keep it about 60-65F).

See the remaining bow (it was a ton worse a few days ago before adding snow and clamping)

2nd issue is the leg / framing joinery
See the mortise/tenons as well as the worn out drawer glide

See where the top, sides, back, and framing joins to the legs (they are all split)

Finally the drawers
See the bow in the bottoms; this should be an easy fix with new plywood bottoms

This pic shows the drawers are leveled and keep the reveal (I believe) using these metal tabs that I assume are nailed in ? How do I remove these so they do not continue to wear out the drawer bottoms ? Then what do I replace them w/ ? Waxed hardwood tabs glued on ? Also see the worn our drawer glide / runner that I’ll need to replace. Some are in great shape while others are falling apart.

See where the metal tabs have worn holes in the drawer bottoms

What else can I do to the top or do you feel it’s close enough for screws to now be able to pull it down the rest of the way (screw up into the bottom side of the top piece from the bracing) ? I’m not worried about the bit of cupping that remains in the middle of each top piece board.

It looks like all oak to me but I’m not good at guessing wood types yet. Let me know your thoughts here…

What time period would you place it in ? I did not see any markings on it but I’ve not looked for any very closely yet either.

Thanks in advance for any input, I’ll post the videos once available !

Here’s the Youtube video as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Jl2NXAB_Bg


17 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

13734 posts in 2083 days


#1 posted 01-26-2016 07:22 PM

Need to fix the pics so they display…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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jfynyson

21 posts in 331 days


#2 posted 01-26-2016 09:20 PM

In other forums such as aquariums and model trains I was taught to simply use the [img] add link [img] function to post the pics and they all work perfect every time but for some reason that didn’t work out here so I’ll try another way. I’ll keep trying until I get it right here…Thanks & sorry

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jfynyson

21 posts in 331 days


#3 posted 01-26-2016 09:30 PM

Yeah the pics worked this time ! Let me know if for some reason you cannot view the video…I set it to public but that doesn’t mean it “took”; I’ve had that issue before.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts / input to fix this nice old piece

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13734 posts in 2083 days


#4 posted 01-26-2016 09:51 PM

I’ll take look tonight and provide input, jf!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1826 days


#5 posted 01-26-2016 10:24 PM

Not worth the effort. It’s junk to start with, and you’ll end up with junk whatever you do to it.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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conifur

955 posts in 616 days


#6 posted 01-26-2016 10:35 PM

Well its not a Chippendale that for sure. Grind down the metal drawer guides.
Looks like red or white oak, but red oak rots easy, I bet it is white, since it was out doors for a bit.
Nylon drawer slide/tabs if applicable.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13734 posts in 2083 days


#7 posted 01-27-2016 12:33 AM

Actually, fix (replace) the internal drawer glides and the metal stops won’t be dragging on the drawer anymore. Don’t grind them down, they serve a purpose. New ply or masonite for the bottoms is a good idea and an easy fix. The top is a challenge. I’d suggest you replace it outright; it’s pretty warped. If you had a planer, getting it flat and even would still mean losing thickness.

Bottom line, drawer glides are the biggest issue keeping this from being a rustic, useable piece.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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conifur

955 posts in 616 days


#8 posted 01-27-2016 12:55 AM

I disagree on the top, if you want to keep it original and rustic, except with a piece of stone or marble and then I would go raw edge.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

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jfynyson

21 posts in 331 days


#9 posted 01-27-2016 01:16 AM

Many thanks for the suggestions; I was hoping that someone had some magic idea for all pieces to get fixed and keep the look but I understood it was a challenge looking at it but the wife had bigger hopes / confidence in me than I have the ability to deliver I guess; she was actually ok with the bowed top after I told her it just might not be fixable

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#10 posted 01-27-2016 02:39 AM

jfynyson,

Well you really have to keep the wife happy – happy wife, happy life!

An idea to repair the top is

1) Remove the weights and clamps and stop feeding it snow.

2) After a few weeks in the shop, the top will do what it will do, probably go back to the severe cup.

3) After the top stabilizes, free the glued up boards making up the top by ripping on the glue line – bandsaw would probably be safer than the table saw

4) Joint the edges of the boards square with its faces

5) Re-glue the top, one board at a time. Make extensive use of cauls to keep the boards even. Shorter cauls do better than longer ones; hence add one board at a time until the top is re-glued. Be at the ready with a damp cloth to remove glue squeeze out. Alternatively, rout stop grooves in each jointed edge reference off the top side of the boards and prepare a well-fitting spline to keep the boards even during the glue up. The stop grooves would eliminate the need for cauls and the need for one board at a time glue up.

On one hand, the top will be flattened. If the wood was fully acclimated before the glue-up, the bow should not return.

On the other hand, regardless of your efforts, there will probably a bit of unevenness at the joint lines. Any effort to flush up the joint lines will remove patina. Also, the width of the top will be reduced by perhaps ½” up to ¾”. However, if you can minimize the number of rip cuts, the width of the top will be reduced less. It looks like the center is flat and the two edges cup, so maybe all you need do is make two rip cuts.

I am not much into restoration and the only time I did, it was very crude. It was a settle and 2 side chairs. I disassembled the joints, tried as I could to remove old hide glue, and then re-glued the joints. Expecting re-glued joints to be weak, I reinforced those that could receive a good deal of stress with finishing nails (as I said, very crude – I am almost ashamed). After cleaning and lightly sanding the wood, un-tinted Danish oil and a coat of wax were applied and I called it done.

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

13734 posts in 2083 days


#11 posted 01-27-2016 03:18 AM

Brow speaks truth, that is a way to address the cupping using existing material. And you can keep the look of everything else, the runners are internal fixes.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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runswithscissors

2189 posts in 1490 days


#12 posted 01-27-2016 04:31 AM

The metal tabs are there to keep the drawer from being pushed in too far. If they rub on the drawer bottom, they could be ground down a little. An angle grinder makes a quick job of this.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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jfynyson

21 posts in 331 days


#13 posted 01-27-2016 03:55 PM

JBrow,
What is meant in item # 5 when you say, “Alternatively, rout stop grooves in each jointed edge reference off the top side of the boards and prepare a well-fitting spline to keep the boards even during the glue up. The stop grooves would eliminate the need for cauls and the need for one board at a time glue up.”

Would this be the same as biscuit joinery ?

Thanks for the ideas !

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conifur

955 posts in 616 days


#14 posted 01-27-2016 04:40 PM

If you rip and reglue the top, it may not be deep enough to over hang the frame and drawers in the front, and that would be a bad look, IMHO

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2198 posts in 945 days


#15 posted 01-27-2016 04:47 PM

What JBrow^ said.

The middle section looks reasonably flat, but there is an open glue line so make one rip cut there.
I would rip cut off each end, face and edge joint before regluing.
I would glue the whole top at once I don’t see the need for glueing individual boards.

Conifure brings up a good point by the time you get done sawing and jointing you will lose maybe 1/2 – 5/8”.

Also realize after jointing and reflattening after glue up, the top might be 1/8” thinner will affect looks.

You can inject epoxy into those loose joints.

Look at it as good practice experience. If its firewood in the end its all good.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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