China Hutch Panel Doors Problem

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Forum topic by Cortland posted 01-31-2013 02:54 PM 1520 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Cortland's profile


21 posts in 3225 days

01-31-2013 02:54 PM

I recently inherited a Temple Stuart china hutch from the 1950s. It’s in really nice shape and I thought it would just need a good cleaning and some stain, but then I noticed the bottom door panels have shifted in their frames. I know the panels float, but the left panel has shifted more than a ¼” revealing unfinished wood, while the right panel has moved so far it created an open gap. Both panels are frozen in place and won’t move at all. Any ideas on how to get the panels back in place without dismantling the doors?

10 replies so far

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 1993 days

#1 posted 01-31-2013 03:34 PM

Interesting they both shifted in the same direction. Any sign of damage to the side of the cabinet?

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View Cortland's profile


21 posts in 3225 days

#2 posted 01-31-2013 03:46 PM

NO, the cabinet is fine all the way around. It’s almost as if it were stored lying on its side for years and years, but it has actually been used all this time. Excessive heat/age shrinkage?

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 1993 days

#3 posted 01-31-2013 03:52 PM

I’m more inclined to believed the panels were glued into the frames on the right side, especially since you say they are frozen in place. Most likely the glue is PVA, so try squirting some warm vinegar along the edges that are still glued to see if you can soften it.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3187 days

#4 posted 01-31-2013 04:23 PM

That’s a really good answer, SS. People do often glue them in on one side, and that would be a problem in this case.

I can’t recommend a solution, other than what SS described and to use a wood block and mallet to try to tap the panel loose. I would, of course, try to finish the naked parts beforehand…nothing perfect, just something close. Alternatively, you could add a small bead around the frame to cover it up, but that doesn’t fix the off-center panels.

Building new doors using the center panels is an option, which would require matching the finish, but this is something you probably want to avoid in the first place. Stumped.

-- jay,

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2879 days

#5 posted 01-31-2013 04:25 PM

I am not a trained furniture repairer, Cortland, but I do it and people pay me. Given your challenge, and your permission, I would first cut a slight bevel on the leading edge of the unfinished edge of the panel, just so it will want to go into the dado easily.

Then I’d clamp the door flat on the bench, face down, making sure the frame made contact and not the panel.

Then I would screw (ouch, I know) a block to the back of the panel and, using a couple clamps, I’d try, very slowly, to move the panel the way it needs to go. If it refuses, leaving it in tension overnight would not be a bad idea.

SamuraiSaw’s idea of warm vinegar is interesting, but in this mode I don’t know how we’d assure it’s not affecting the finish on the front.

Dismantling the frame is so drastic and failure ridden that I’d really try everything else I could think of first. I look forward to other LJ ideas.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View waho6o9's profile


8209 posts in 2605 days

#6 posted 01-31-2013 04:26 PM

I’d leave well enough alone. If you try fixing it and mess it up worse, oops.

+1 for Cosmicsniper suggestion.

View Cortland's profile


21 posts in 3225 days

#7 posted 01-31-2013 04:42 PM

Actually I was thinking along those lines: Remove the doors, clamp the frames flat to see if the frames are actually binding up the panel—they look straight to the eye though. But leaving them clamped flat for a few days might help loosen the grip on the panel. Don’t know how to prevent this from happening again if I do get it to float. Should I glue one end? Considering its age, I’m afraid it may crack with changes in humidity.

View GrandpaLen's profile


1650 posts in 2301 days

#8 posted 01-31-2013 05:52 PM


...we are feeling your pain.

If all else fails and this is not an antique worth it’s weight in gold you could route the back inside edges of the stiles and rails to a depth which will reveal the offending panel and that will give you unrestricted access to the glued/trapped edge. Make your re-registered restoration of the panel, prefinish some appropriately sized molding, say 1/4 round, and install as with a glass panel.

Best Regards with your delema solution. – Grandpa Len.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Cortland's profile


21 posts in 3225 days

#9 posted 01-31-2013 07:21 PM

These are all good suggestions, thanks to all. I think I just might continue to stare at it for a couple more days—see if I can “shame” it back into place. Swearing didn’t work.

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2383 days

#10 posted 02-01-2013 12:40 AM

take the doors off, get a block of hard wood rap it in cloth to pad it, place the block along the flat on the raised anel tap the block with a mallet. This should drive the panel back. But be careful and tap lightly, or you may drive the panel too far or damage the edge of the raised panel.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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