The primary distinction between a professional and an amateur is that the professional knows how to correct his mistakes so that they do not show. Even if you’re not a cabinet maker, the following fixes and tips can come in handy. They can, for example, be used to repair flaws in an antique piece of furniture you’re restoring.
Most people find it simple to install drawer handles. It’s as simple as drilling one or two holes and repositioning the hardware. But what if your measurements are incorrect and you drill the holes in the incorrect location? You could try again by plugging the holes with dowels, but unless you paint the drawer, the dowel plugs will be visible. A better solution is to replace the hardware. Consider using a handle with a backing plate instead.
The backing plate is not only decorative, but it is usually large enough to cover the misdrilled holes as well. You can also use a surface-mounted or recessed hardwood pull instead. They come in a variety of shapes and hardwoods, and they are generally larger than metal handles, allowing them to cover a larger surface area.
Changing the hardware configuration on a drawer by replacing a single, central pull with two handles near the drawer’s edges is a common choice among furniture restorers. This, of course, leaves a gap in the drawer’s center. A decorative metal plate or pressed-wood medallion is one way to conceal the hole.
Another method for concealing flaws on the drawer face or any wood surface is to apply a sheet of wood veneer to the surface. While most woodworkers recommend veneering both sides of a board to prevent warping, you can get away with veneering only the face. The drawer frame should provide adequate support to keep the face stable. Remember that if you’re working on a chest of drawers, you’ll need to veneer all of the drawers to match.
Metal fasteners, screws, and nails can be a source of frustration if they bend or break. They must be removed and replaced with as little damage to the surrounding wood as possible. A screw extractor ( you can find it on Amazon.com starting from $16) is the best tool for removing a broken screw. Drill a pilot hole into the screw (the exact drill diameter is specified with the extractor), then twist the extractor into the hole. It will wedge itself into the screw, allowing you to twist it out.
Tenacious screws can be removed with a hollow steel screw removal tool. This tool is essentially a high-speed steel tube. The tool has cutting teeth on one end. Insert the other end of the drill bit into an electric drill and bore a plug around the embedded screw. With the screw inside, the plug can be broken off and removed. Insert a wooden dowel into the plug hole, drill a pilot hole, and screw in a new screw.
Another issue with screws is when the threads on the screw are stripped. This is common in antique furniture because the only screws available to manufacturers were soft zinc-plated or brass screws. On modern pieces, it can happen when the soft wood surrounding the screw crumbles.
You must first remove the screw before proceeding with the repair. The stripped threads frequently make it impossible to twist it out, and the slot on the soft screw head is frequently worn down, making it difficult to insert a screwdriver tip. You can try gluing the screwdriver to the screw head with a drop of fast-drying cyanoacrylate glue (also known as “instant” or “Crazy Glue”, see prices on Amazon) and then twisting the screw out. If this doesn’t work, use a screw extractor.
Examine the hole before replacing the old screw with a new one. If the wood is torn, fill it with a solid material so the new screw has something to grip. Toothpicks made of wood work well in this situation. Insert a few glue-coated toothpicks into the hole and cut them flush with the surface. Allow the glue to dry completely before inserting a new screw.
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Use a wooden dowel for a more substantial plug. Drill a hole large enough to accept a short length of dowel. Allow time for the glue to set before drilling a pilot hole through the plug. Lubricate the threads with paraffin wax before driving in a new screw. This will keep the threads from unraveling. Because soap attracts moisture, it should not be used as a lubricant.
Broken nails are simple to repair. If you can’t get the nail out, use a nail set to drive it below the surface and fill the hole with wood putty. A bent nail is more problematic. A small “cat’s paw” is an excellent nail-removal tool. The tool resembles a miniature pry bar. You can use it to work under the bent nail and pry it up. Nonetheless, it is critical to construct a homemade shield to protect the surrounding wood.
Drill a 1-inch hole in the center of a small piece of 1/4-inch plywood to make the shield. To pry up the nail, place the hole over it and use the surrounding shield as a fulcrum. You can repair the dented wood around the nail hole now that the nail has been removed. Most amateurs use wood putty to fill the nail holes and dents, but the filler is difficult to conceal. It is preferable to use steam to raise the crushed wood fibers in the dent. Cover the dent with a small wet cloth and heat it with the tip of an electric iron. To avoid scorching the wood, keep the iron moving. The steam should raise the dent in a few seconds.
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