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How to fix butt joint gaps?

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Forum topic by Graem Lourens posted 08-08-2016 01:48 PM 826 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


08-08-2016 01:48 PM

Hi Everybody.

I’ve glued up my outside bench for at the pond. This has been my first furniture woodworking project where accuracy mattered, and i already have learnt a hard lesson with dowels. They were so tight, that when trying to glue this together, i wasn’t able to generate the force necessary to get all those tight dowels (28 at once) deep into the according holes.

I’m left with a lot of butt joint gaps!
The project is going to be stained and finished, but i’ve been reviewing some options to fill those gaps, as its going to be standing outside, in full rain, snow and what not. Those gaps will be hard to ‘finish’ and will be a perfect spot for moisture to soak into the end grain (as its pine, i have to seal up everything everywhere as good as possible)

I was looking at stainable wood putty, but i’m getting mixed feedback. Ones saying you may not putty Butt joints, ones saying those stainable wood fillers like minwax offers do not stain as they claim. And filling after finish seems to be the wrong way to go, now that i can still fill / fix & sandpaper as much as i want to.

Also i checked the Option of using glue & sawdust, but before i do anything, i wanted to do my research first…

I need you’re experienced advice!
Any help warmely welcome.

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/


26 replies so far

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 381 days


#1 posted 08-08-2016 02:35 PM

Graem Lourens,

Using a paste filler, whether wood putty or dust and glue, would be my option of last resort. I frequently fill long gaps using thin shims cut from project lumber. A well-fitting shim, unlike paste fillers, can produce a repair that is nearly invisible and it stays put and will not crack.

The gap to be filled is first cleaned and prepared for shim. A utility knife can often result in a gap wide enough to accept the shim to a consistent deep. The shim is prepared by first cutting a slither of wood from which the project is built to approximate size. The shim is then fine-tuned to fit snugly and deeply in the gap all along the length of gap. I find course grit sand paper works best on what is normally a fairly thin shim sometimes sanding a slight bevel along one edge to make it easier to press it deeply into the gap. Once I have the shim fitting exactly right, I apply glue to the shim and press the shim into the gap as deeply as possible. After the glue has cured, the excess shim is paired away with a chisel and sanded flush.

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GR8HUNTER

1134 posts in 174 days


#2 posted 08-08-2016 03:22 PM

I say lesson learned ….......just set it out …..when you build next 1 ….....check into biscuit’s …..or drill hole 1 size bigger then dowels …......this way you have some room for glue also …...... good luck to you sir

-- Tony Reinholds,Pa. REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

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Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#3 posted 08-09-2016 07:15 AM

Hi.

Thank you a lot for your feedback. I didn’t even consider your idea JBrow, but it seems very simple and effective! I will give that a go, even if i think this will be a very finicky and tedious job to get those shims just right – but we will see, it definitively sounds the most promising to then stain & finish (assuming i don’t make a huge glue-mess)

Concerning the dowels, yes indeed 1 size bigger hole next time. I did see to it that the dowels could be put in and removed by hand, but with so many dowels at once, i totally underestimated the force.

And also learnt that you can never have enough clamps :)

But back to wood filler / paste / putty. Are these products unreliable and are there certain things to be aware of? Maybe somebody that has experimented with it could share a few words so i don’t walk into the pittfalls ahead of me if i do decide to try.

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2190 posts in 942 days


#4 posted 08-09-2016 10:13 AM

Did you do a dry fit?
Sounds like the glue was seizing on you. Did you try to glue the whole thing up at once or stages?
Any filler needs to be waterproof, as does (did) the glue.

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

View Graem Lourens's profile

Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#5 posted 08-09-2016 10:51 AM

Hi.

Yes i did a dry assembly, but to be honest, i did not clamp everything to the tighest, just wanted to see that everything fits, that was a big mistake. I though the gaps would then disappear (nearly all) when clamping. But i had to take belt fasteners (like the ones you use to attach things to your roof of the car) and i never ever could put any kind of real force to those.

I assembled the back rest, and both leg parts (that i could separately glue) first. Let them dry, then all 4 parts came together (not possible to do it in various stages because of the dowels). 2 Sideparts, back rest and seat logs. (don’t know how you call them)

Lesson learnt for sure. Dry assembly has to be exactly as it will be when glued up, and to make those holes for dowels muuuuch looser (and that i need to buy more clamps…. the ones i have nearly broke already, i guess i need some heavy duty pipe clamps for these kind of projects)

Glue is waterproof, yes.

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

2324 posts in 1758 days


#6 posted 08-09-2016 12:03 PM

Gotta have real clamps – you can use simple wooden wedges if you don’t have a real need for the clamps beyond this one time build.

View Graem Lourens's profile

Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#7 posted 08-09-2016 12:05 PM

What a great idea… thank you! Very handy if once i have to clamp something longer than my clamps.

I will though be building a ton of furniture in future, so i think i’ll be going for a decent set, but in the meanwhile i’ll gladly try this relatively simple workaround!

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View jeffswildwood's profile (online now)

jeffswildwood

1326 posts in 1439 days


#8 posted 08-09-2016 12:08 PM

First congratulations on a beautiful bench. I like the design! As for the gaps, unless they are big, I agree with Tony (GR8HUNTER). Lesson learned, stain and seal and put it out and enjoy it! Next time make your adjustments.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way thats says "I meant to do that".

View Graem Lourens's profile

Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#9 posted 08-09-2016 12:11 PM

Hi Jeff.

Thank you very much for your feedback.

I can not take credit for the design. I saw this bench in a park around here, sat on it for a while, loved it, came back a few days later with a measuring tape and a laptop and 3d sketched it.

But its dead simple to make, and the next one will feature half lap joints or mortise and tenons, not sure yet what road to go down first. (need to try them all to pick my favorite!, really depends on the tools at hand i guess)

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View Kazooman's profile

Kazooman

624 posts in 1414 days


#10 posted 08-09-2016 12:54 PM

A bit more on using dowels. Don’t go overboard on making the holes larger. A snug fit without binding is what you want. Your comment “to make those holes for dowels muuuuch looser” suggests that you might be headed too far in the loose fitting direction.

You need to allow somewhere for the excess glue to squeeze out. If you put a bunch of glue in the hole and then insert a fairly snug fitting dowel the glue gets pushed to the bottom of the hole and that’s as far as the dowel can go. You can purchase dowels that are scored along their length or simply use a utility knife or other tool to score your own making channels for the glue to flow through. The total depth of the two holes should be a bit more than the dowel so that it doesn’t bottom out.

View Graem Lourens's profile

Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#11 posted 08-09-2016 01:11 PM

Hi Kazooman.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. And i do know i’ll have to be careful not going too far, but using the same drill size as the dowel is, didn’t work for me it seems. I’ll go one size bigger and see if that does the trick.

The dowels that i have, they have the scores along the side, so perfect for glue-squeeze-out.
I think that if i could have done the glueing in smaller parts (i’d have to design it differently) it would have been no problem, but getting the force for 28 dowels including a snug fit, was just over-enthusiastic :)

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

2227 posts in 1908 days


#12 posted 08-09-2016 02:07 PM

Another possibility for having those gaps is, you probably did not drill the holes deep enough ,it’s always better to measure and compare the depth of the holes with the length of the dowels. I always drill 1/16” deeper than what’s needed.
If you are planning to use dowels in your future projects I highly recommend shaving 15-20 spare dowels to make them narrower so they can easily fit in the holes, keep them in a sealed jar, use them for dry fitting/ testing your project before the final glue-up.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View jwmalone's profile

jwmalone

769 posts in 164 days


#13 posted 08-09-2016 02:21 PM

Gr8hunter has it, lesson learned. Also you built that from pine to sit out in the weather, it will shrink and you will have gaps anyway fixing them now is pointless. Its a very nice bench. Next time I would consider using a wood better suited for exterior applications like cedar or something, even then outside furniture uses slightly different approach to joinery techniques than inside to allow for the extreme changes in temp and humidity.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Graem Lourens's profile

Graem Lourens

28 posts in 129 days


#14 posted 08-09-2016 02:56 PM

While reading about using dowels, i did read that one should drill slightly deeper than the dowel, and i made sure that was the case everywhere.

The hint of the slightly smaller dowels for dry fitting is a very good hint, thank you! You guys are flooding me with great insights, i really appreciate it.

Concerning the wood. As it really as a practise object i didn’t want to use any good wood, and furthermore i’m still looking for a good local dealer here in Warsaw.

Kind regards, Graem

-- Novice woodworker and passionate astrophotographer https://www.flickr.com/photos/graemlourens/

View jwmalone's profile

jwmalone

769 posts in 164 days


#15 posted 08-09-2016 03:10 PM

Well its a very nice practice piece. Are you in Poland or U.S.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

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