A look back on the first Woodchucks repair day of 2012
This is the start of the eleventh year the Woodchucks have been working in the Millgrove Woodshop. We are very happy with our facility, and as a way to give back to the community, we open the shop twice each year and invite residents to bring broken wooden furniture and other objects to the shop that need to be repaired. Thirty to forty of our most experienced woodworkers volunteer a day to repair these objects. Elizabeth Anderson schedules a time for each resident to arrive and then assigns the project to a team of Woodchucks. Small teams of Woodchucks hovered around each bench squinting at their projects and talking to the other team members, trading ideas on the best way to repair their projects.
Twenty-four residents brought their wobbly chairs, broken tables, and sticky dresser drawers to the Ask the Woodchucks repair day. We hold this event twice each year. As usual, most of the problems were wobbly and broken chairs. We are always amazed at the previous repairs that never seem to fix the problem, or maybe we only see the unsuccessful ones. An oversized nail pounded through the leg into the end grain of the stretcher never works. Squirting glue all around the outside of a loose joint only makes the subsequent repair more difficult.
After some discussion about how to proceed, we usually remove the legs and stretchers from the chair. We then usually spend considerable time removing unsuccessful repairs and cleaning the tenons and the mortises. Occasionally we have to make new stretchers. The next step is to dry fit the chair back together to make sure everything fits and that all four legs reach the ground.
We are now ready to glue the chair back together. We use either yellow carpenter’s glue or in some cases Gorilla Glue. Clamps are then added to make sure the joints are fully engaged and they don’t move while the glue dries. We usually also clamp chairs and tables to the workbench, legs down, while the glue dries to make sure they don’t rock.
Tony Troy, a Woodchuck and a resident of Arcadia, brought in four chairs from the common area to tighten up the loose legs.
We had an unusual object to repair at this year’s repair day. It was an antique tobacco cabinet with a copper-lined humidor. The top had become detached, most of the copper sheeting was loose, and the wooden framing around the copper was loose. All these problems were repaired.
One thing we can’t do in the shop is apply stain or finish to a piece of furniture. This applies not only to residents’ furniture brought to Ask the Woodchucks, but to furniture built in the shop by members. This is a rule we made 10 years ago to prevent messy spills, odors, and to eliminate the danger of flammable oil-based finishes. When a repair disturbs the finish or when a new part has to be made, we explain to the resident how to stain and add finish to the affected area.
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