Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hypothetically Speaking

Let's pretend that you've built a PA German sawbuck table, and the last time you knocked it apart and put it back together, the top refused to slide onto the rails.

Rather than waste time trying to figure out what might be wrong, because it had never given you trouble before, you reach for your mallet and persuade the table top to slide home.


That was the sound of the dowel portion of two spindles—which hold the rails to the leg assemblies—breaking in half.

No wonder antique sawbuck tables are frequently missing their pegs; impatience is not a character flaw exclusive to the 21st century.

Upon discovering that the ill-fitting table top was the result of one of the leg assemblies having been inadvertently turned around while putting the table back together, you are faced with the task of repairing or recreating two spindles.

The dilemma is, you really, really, REALLY do not like to use the lathe.

So you decide to make new dowels by hand using a block plane to rough-shape the pegs, and a metal dowel plate to finalize it.

Photos one and two show a rough-shaped dowel and a finished one (in the foreground). Notice the smoothness and shininess of the finished dowel. You sanded and waxed it, right? Nope.

You discovered by accident that (after using the dowel plate—photo 4), if you tap the "wee-bit-too-tight" dowel through the peg hole a few times to compress the fibers, the endgrain that lines the hole burnishes the facegrain of the dowel.

You think to yourself, if you need for a dowel to slide easily upon removal, you can always bore a slightly smaller hole in a scrap piece of wood and tap the dowel back and forth through it to compress the fibers even more. (In theory, 'cause you haven't actually tried it.)

Now all you need to do is bore a hole in the handles of the two broken spindles and glue the new dowels in place.

But let's imagine that you haven't gotten that far and haven't quite figured out how to do it yet.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.