NaturalScience

Dresser drawer dovetail repair

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I rescued a dresser from the trash. It's in reasonably good shape. I don't think it is anything special, just nicely built piece.

I may invest the time to refinish it but the necessary repair are some failing dovetail joints on the drawers. 

I did some research and it seems taking the joint apart, reshaping the angle and adding material to snug the joint is the best method. I'm not so sure I'm willing or have the skill set to perform that repair. 

I was thinking drilling through the joint and inserting a very small diameter dowel but it was pointed out a very long drill bit may be needed, plus the rather thin dowel doesn't seem very structural. 

I've gotten a few suggestions to just glue the joint using a syringe and clamp.

 

Now given my lack of woodworking tools, space and experience, I'm inclined to go the glue it route. Other factors include; literally took it as someone was chucking it, not an antique, not going to be an heirloom. 

 

You guys have any thoughts?

 

The drawer pictured is the worst specimen.  The others are just pulling apart a bit at the bottom couple of "tails".

I was able to nudge apart the drawer front from the side but there are blocks glued to the side and bottom that currently prevent disassembly.

 

Watched a video on drilling into the joint and injecting glue in the hole. The video was of a splice joint not dovetail. Not much out there on injecting glue for dovetail repair.

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You might luck out with just injecting glue- the main challenge I see is that unless you take the joint all the way apart, you cant' really clean the joint well and you may be trying to use glue together two surfaces that already have glue residue on them and it wont' be a strong joint.  If it was me and I wasnt' trying to do a full restoration, I'd probably first glue and clamp them.  Then I'd get some hardwood maybe 58 or 3/4 square and as long at the drawer is tall on the insight.  Clean the surfaces of the inside corners and glue and clamp the support in the inside.  I'd probably add in some brads or small screws if the drawer was thick enough to hold them. You could even put a short dowel through the block and the side of the drawer.  It would be invisible on the outside, only lose a tiny bit of drawer pace and since you are gluing clean surfaces, should give you the strength you needed when coupled with the glued dovetails.

 As far as drilling vertically through the joint, I guess you could use a thin metal rod vs a dowel.  However, I think it would be tough to keep a thin bit straight, and getting it aligned though the joint would be pretty tough-  thee look to be router cut dovetails, so the backs of the pins would be round. I wouldnt' even try that approach

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Posted (edited) · Report post

The draw fronts are warped ?   Looks like they have been out in the weather? 
I don’t think you can fix it ?   I would leave as is ?   
 

if you look close, you can see the staining on the doves 

Edited by ccb

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I sacrificed one of the blocks and popped of the side.

The dovetails are definitely rounded. Lol.

The joints do not look like they have been glued.

It looks like putty was smushed into some of them to fill the gaps.

I can't speak to if the piece was out in weather but doesn't really show signs of that.

It was put out in the morning and I grabbed it early afternoon. A drab day but not raining.

 

Looking more closely I am now leaning towards strapping the drawer to tighten the joint and glueing more blocks on the underside and maybe the inside corner of the drawer front and side.

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Looks to be too much effort for too little reward. Most used furniture has to little to no $$$ value and you can even find much better stuff on sites for free or real cheap.Now, if you have this gotta save it attitude, have at it, ++'d just glue, clamp and hope.  

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6 mins ago, Highlander1 said:

Looks to be too much effort for too little reward. Most used furniture has to little to no $$$ value and you can even find much better stuff on sites for free or real cheap.Now, if you have this gotta save it attitude, have at it, ++'d just glue, clamp and hope.  

The more im thinking about it, the more im thinking I agree with you.

It's just the one drawer with actual cracks in the tails. The other couple are just a touch loose on the bottom. I think some glue in the joint of the bad one and blocks to give it a little help.  Maybe some wax to keep them sliding easy.

 

 

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If there was some putty in there before and there are big gaps, just use some epoxy. I've "saved" a few pieces of furniture-  just did two headboards fro the grandsons this weekend- and sometime the labor can be burdensme.  But I will say that even an imperfectly saved piece of real wood furniture with real joinery beats out MDF/particle board furniture in my eyes. Some satisfaction keeping things from going to the dump and being "green" as well.  Btu you do need to keep your eyes open and know when it's too much.

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You can glue it and clamp it , but it may still pull away?  The weather got to it before you. 

When I was in the Antique Business years ago, people wanted nice bureaus .  Today the kids don't want them?  They buy that new stuff thats out there and it don't last for ten years?  The draws on some are made of cardboard?  Garbage for big money  I would tell my kids to go to Amherst Mass. to the big Flea Market ( 3 time a year).and buy a piece.  I told them when your dead the piece will still be good a new, with a couple of dents or scratches.  For a buck and a half, to a couple of hundred, you can get a piece that will last you the rest of your life.  

Only one son took my advise.  After he spent a couple of thousand on the first ones. . 

Buy Queen Ann, Hepplewhite or Sheridan pieces.  They never go out of style.

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If you have bar or pipe clamps that will fit, use them to clamp it back to where it usta be. Don't bother trying to "fix" the dovetails. That's a fools errand. If you dont have clamps to fit, use a ratchet strap. Most important is to make sure you get it square first. If you can, lay out on a piece of plywood the size and shape of the outside dimensions of the box, and screw cleats down to help ya keep it square. Clamp or strap it then make sure it fits into the layout. Another strap or clamp over the top to keep it down would help. Then just make a bunch of blocks to fit inside each corner. Glue and nail/screw/whatever you can do to fix the blocks. Let it sit overnight. Then do the next one. The size of the blocks depends on what you have to affix them. But I would scrape the insides of each corner where the blocks are to go to be sure that you have raw wood, and use good wood glue. If you dont have a finish nailer to use, buy a box of short GRK finish screws and run them in from the outside.

I've "saved" too many drawers like this than I can remember.

 

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3 hours ago, Ben Lippen said:

If you have bar or pipe clamps that will fit, use them to clamp it back to where it usta be. Don't bother trying to "fix" the dovetails. That's a fools errand. If you dont have clamps to fit, use a ratchet strap. Most important is to make sure you get it square first. If you can, lay out on a piece of plywood the size and shape of the outside dimensions of the box, and screw cleats down to help ya keep it square. Clamp or strap it then make sure it fits into the layout. Another strap or clamp over the top to keep it down would help. Then just make a bunch of blocks to fit inside each corner. Glue and nail/screw/whatever you can do to fix the blocks. Let it sit overnight. Then do the next one. The size of the blocks depends on what you have to affix them. But I would scrape the insides of each corner where the blocks are to go to be sure that you have raw wood, and use good wood glue. If you dont have a finish nailer to use, buy a box of short GRK finish screws and run them in from the outside.

I've "saved" too many drawers like this than I can remember.

 

This is basically the solution I decided on. After running down every convoluted method I decided simple is best. It's not like they're falling apart, just need a little help. I'll put up some pics of the process when i start.

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On 2/24/2020 at 11:06 PM, NaturalScience said:

This is basically the solution I decided on. After running down every convoluted method I decided simple is best. It's not like they're falling apart, just need a little help. I'll put up some pics of the process when i start.

And, if it doesn't work, bug deal, put it back where you found it, a little wiser than you were when you picked it up.

Those thin pegs you talked about using might work in the bottom two or three dovetail pins. They are stronger than you think. I used some bamboo skewers to pin chair leg tenons back in after a larger family member loosened them at a family gathering. It is 'his' chair now, and has stood up to his abuse after I glued and pinned them back. I used the bamboo pins to draw the joint tight by drilling the hole in the pin slightly deeper than dead on. Grain alignment is key too. My Neice's husband is a genuine 6'6", and a good 450. Nicest guy you ever met, but he plays hell on furniture.

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