First page of the Czeck Edge Hand Tool archive.

Dresser Drawer wonky – repair

Posted by is9582 on October 27, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have an old dresser that is almost 30 years old, that was purchased just before our son was born. It has some nice looking maple/curly maple on it and is fairly heavy, which lead us to believe it was well made. Unfortunately, this was around the time I was just cutting my teeth on some basic woodworking, so I didn’t dig into it as I would today.

I became aware that the top drawer was twisting in it’s track and it was a struggle to get the drawer in or out. As I was going through all of the excess stuff in the room, I pulled the drawer to see what exactly was happening. The drawers, which are each approximately 30″ wide, have one “T” shaped runner in the dead center of each level. The front end of the runners are screwed to the face frame, and initially it looked like the rear swung into what looked like a dado, with perhaps a dab of glue securing it. After completely removing the top runner, I saw there was a hole in the rear of the case, in the “dado section”, as well as signs a screw was driven into the rear end of the runner. The actions of the drawer must have created enough vibration to cause the rear screw to back out of the runner. Sure enough, I pulled the dresser away from the wall and there was one screw lying on the ground and it fit perfectly into the hole in the runner.

 

The runner for the top drawer in the dresser, with the screw intact at the red arrow, and the missing screw's location in the area of the blue arrows.

The runner for the top drawer in the dresser, with the screw intact at the red arrow, and the missing screw’s location in the area of the blue arrows.

 

The second part of the dresser issues is the fact that they installed a plastic guide on the rear of each drawer, to fit over the runner’s “T” shape. I know not all plastic is bad, but in this type of usage, it just doesn’t seem like it matches the drawer sizing, nor the level of the dresser’s original cost. The plastic guide on the problematic top drawer, had split at some point and one side section was gone.

 

Original undamaged plastic drawer guide, from another drawer in the dresser.

Original undamaged plastic drawer guide, from another drawer in the dresser.

 

Broken plastic guide from top drawer in this dresser.

Broken plastic guide from top drawer in this dresser.

 

I can’t tell if the screw popped out of the back first, and the ability of the rear section of the runner to swing from side to side applied extra side force to break the guide, or if the guide went first. I suppose at this point it really doesn’t make much difference.

With the runner from the top drawer already out, I took it to the shop as a template for a replacement guide. I found some cherry that looked like it would potentially work nicely.

I started with a piece of cherry that was about 6″ long, marked out the guide’s overall length, and marked a centerline to align with the center of the runner. I clamped the cherry in the face vise on my bench, and set my small square so the bottom of the runner was just slightly proud of the guide. I needed the bottom of the guide to just clear the face frame when installing the drawer. So with the rear of the runner sitting on the cherry, and the top of the runner against the square, I traced around the shape of the runner.

 

Cherry guide material clamped in the face vise, elevated slightly so my square could register against it to maintain the runner's orientation while drawing around it.

Cherry guide material clamped in the face vise, elevated slightly so my square could register against it to maintain the runner’s orientation while drawing around it.

 

Actual runner in place against the square, with the slight overhang. During the actual drawing around the runner, I squeezed between the base of the runner and the outside edge of the square's body.

Actual runner in place against the square, with the slight overhang. During the actual drawing around the runner, I squeezed between the base of the runner and the outside edge of the square’s body.

 

With the necessary opening of the guide defined, I used my Lie-Nielsen Crosscut saw to saw straight down at the two narrow vertical lines, until I reached the top of the intended opening. Shifting to my Knew Concepts saw, I cut along the horizontal lines, leaving only the the narrow vertical sections uncut. I used my small 1/4″ palm chisel from Czeck Edge Tools to methodically remove the remaining wood.

 

After creating the area to evacuate on the guide, I clamped the cherry in a small turn-screw, while clamping the turn-screw in the face vise. This elevated the piece to a nice height for sawing.

After creating the area to evacuate on the guide, I clamped the cherry in a small turn-screw, while clamping the turn-screw in the face vise. This elevated the piece to a nice height for sawing.

 

Here is the guide straight from the saw, but still it's full length, but the location for shortening is drawn.

Here is the guide straight from the saw, but still it’s full length, but the location for shortening is drawn.

 

I tested the fit and it was too tight widthwise, for the runner to completely enter the created opening in the guide. I used a small file to carefully remove wood, testing every so often, until the desired fit was established. All of the sharp edges were gently rounded to provide the best opportunity for the guide and runner to interact well together. Lastly I applied my Lie-Nielsen stick of paraffin to the mating surfaces of the guide and runner, and rubbed them in to help obtain the best performance.

 

Testing the actual runner in the guide, before cutting the guide to final length.

Testing the actual runner in the guide, before cutting the guide to final length.

 

The final guide after all filing and sanding was complete.

The final guide after all filing and sanding was complete.

 

I’ll include the installation information in one of my next blog entries. Thank you for stopping by and checking out the article. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Lee Laird

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Guitar Build – How critical is the nut?

Posted by is9582 on March 8, 2013 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , ,

Now that my Les Paul (LP) build is mostly finished, I’ve been playing it more and more. Most of the time I have it plugged into my Fractal Audio AxeFX-II, and I lean towards a thick/smooth distortion, not unlike what I get out of my Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+. While this type of sound never fails to sooth my soul, it can also provide a sonic barrier of sorts. What I’m talking about is the lessened ability to pick up on the smallest nuances, which can be .

The first thing I’ll usually do, when I’m preparing to play my guitar, is to plug into my Strobe tuner (a highly accurate tuner). With all of the vibrato and bends I use when playing, it’s not unusual for the guitar to be slightly out of tune from the last session. The AxeFX-II has a built-in tuner of it’s own, which is both decent and extremely handy, since you just need to push a button to activate the tuner. During my longer playing sessions, I’ll usually notice a hint of warble, letting me know at least one string has shifted its tuning a bit. At that point, I’ll just engage the internal tuner, which gets me dang close to perfectly tuned.

With my LP, I’d tune it up, and very quickly notice the tuning seemed “off”, especially when playing through a fairly clean setting on the AxeFX-II. When I’d re-visit the tuner, it’d show the strings were still in tune. So what the heck was going on? I started noticing the tuning issue was primarily when I’d play chords with open strings (for non-guitarists, those are strings that have nothing touching them from the nut all the way up to the bridge) involved. So, I was laying in bed a couple of nights ago, thinking about this tuning issue, and had one of those “AHA” moments! The next morning I got up and plugged my LP into the strobe tuner, since it’s accuracy allows for comparisons that would likely evade other types of tuners. So, what was I looking for? When in bed, I’d thought that the nut might be the issue, either being slightly out of position or there might be a small hump in the slots, moving the point of contact back from the intended leading edge of the nut.

With the strobe, it was simple to verify my theory. I played an open string, while not touching the fretboard, and tuned it up so the string was perfectly in tune. Next I fretted the string (pushed on the string, but just hard enough to get clear tone, as more pressure can cause the pitch to go sharp) at the first fret, and checked to see if the tuner showed I had moved up a perfect half-step (showing the same relative tuning for that note). As I’d expected, each note I played up the neck, was sharp, relative to the pitch of the open string. Ok, ok, I know an F (first fret on the E string) is sharp, relative to the open E, but when I’m talking about these notes being sharp, it’s relative to the pitch each position SHOULD have. So each fretted note up the fretboard is just slightly sharp, relative to their intended pure pitch. Since the nut is somewhat like a fret, as in it contacts the string at a certain point, and the length of string between it and the bridge determines the pitch, its placement is just as important as the frets. Since I saw the same scenario on each string, I knew the nut was the problem. Interestingly enough, while I was focusing on the nut/string interaction, I thought I’d also check to make sure the face of the nut (towards the bridge) was perpendicular to the plane of the fingerboard (e.g. not tilted towards or away from the bridge). I used the blade of my square, placing the end of the blade flat onto the fingerboard, with one of the corners up against the fingerboard/nut junction. (see photo below)

The green arrow is pointing towards the small gap
between the square’s blade and the top of the nut.

As expected, the nut was slightly leaning away from the square’s blade, which placed the string contact point back from its intended position. This would increase the string’s length, when the open string was played, causing it to be slightly flat relative to the intended pitch.

The first thing I needed to do, for this fix, was to remove the nut from the guitar’s neck. Depending on how much and what type of glue was used, this could be easy or very difficult. I hadn’t anticipated needing to remove the nut, when building the guitar, so I’d gone a bit overboard with the amount of glue I used. I started the removal process by scoring around the edges of the nut, with a sharp small utility knife. This will help limit any of the surrounding wood (or finish, if you’ve already lacquered your guitar) from damage, when coaxing the nut free. It was time to apply some force to the nut, to break the glue bonds. I grabbed my heaviest Japanese hammer. You might be wondering why I wouldn’t use a small, lightweight hammer, so I wouldn’t accidentally damage anything. Actually, using the heavy hammer helped me do just that. Since it has so much mass, it required very small taps, to impart it’s will. I lightly tapped the nut from each side, as well as from the front and back. After a few taps on each side, I increased the tapping force very slightly. In about as much time as it took me to write the last couple of lines, the nut made a sound that might freak out the first timer. Something like a “SNAP” (yeah, I quickly checked it out to make sure I hadn’t broken something). The nut was free! (see photo below) Whew (visualize me wiping my brow).

The green arrow points towards the black nut, that is
now loose in the slot. Japanese hammer in lower left.

The nut slot and the bottom of the nut, both needed some attention, as the leftover glue covered each. I found my small chisel from Czeck Edge Hand Tool was just ticket for cleaning up the slot. It has a dovetailed cross-section and this allowed me to get into the tight spaces much easier than a standard shaped chisel. As luck would have it, it was also very close to the exact width of the slot. (see photo below)

Small Czech Tools chisel shown removing shaving of glue.

After cleaning up the slot and the bottom of the nut, I wanted to test the current status, before making modifications. I put the nut back into the slot and while holding the nut, again tested with the square’s blade. Nothing had changed. So I needed to adjust the bottom of the nut, so it would bring the leading edge forward enough to be square with the fingerboard. Initially, I thought about setting up one of my hand planes for an extremely fine shaving, so I could gradually adjust the angle on the bottom of the nut. I ultimately decided against this option, and placed some 220 grit sandpaper onto a flat granite plate. While holding the nut flat on the sandpaper, I applied a little extra pressure to the side under nut’s leading edge, and took some careful back-and-forth strokes. I wanted to make sure the only changes I made to the nut, was to adjust the angle of the base. If I was careless, I could end up with some curvature on the bottom, or a more pronounced angle on one side than the other. After the first set of strokes, I took it to the guitar and tested it again. I noticed the angle, relative to the fingerboard, hadn’t changed! I could also tell the now-angled base of the nut was only touching on the side away from the fingerboard. The space between the headstock maple cap, and the fretboard, was so tight, there was no way the nut could sit on the new angle. I grabbed my best paring chisel, and turning the chisel onto it’s side, pared off a very small section of the maple cap (the cap is seen in the photo above, just below the edge of the chisel). I tested the nut again, and it’s base made full contact, but was still shy of perpendicular. After a second pass at the sandpaper, and another paring session on the maple cap, it was looking pretty good. For some reason, the leading edge of the nut had some extra material at about the mid-way up it’s height, and that little bulge would very slightly hold the leading edge back from the fingerboard. I revisited the sandpaper for the last time, and removed the unwanted excess from the nut’s face. 

Before gluing the nut in place, I tuned up the guitar, with the the nut loose in it’s slot, so I could validate that portion of the repair. I tested the open strings and fretted positions, and it was right on target. I then decided to play the guitar lightly, and was surprised by an ancillary change. Before I started the repair, I’d also measured the distance between the string and the first fret, when I held the string at the second fret. The high E string was originally .011″ above the first fret, but after the alterations to the nut’s base, was now measuring at .004″ above the first fret. I’d planned to wait until I finished the nut’s orientation, and verify the status, before moving on to adjust for string height. With the new measurements, and the way the guitar felt, there was no need for further modifications.
Now it was glue time. As you might expect, I decided to use the glue sparingly, since it really doesn’t take much to keep the nut in place. I used a couple of drops of the original-viscosity super glue, and after placing the nut correctly, re-engaged (I left the strings attached earlier, but just took enough tension off, so I could remove the strings from the nut) the strings in the nut. After tuning the guitar, the tension of the strings will act as a clamp on the nut until it dries.  Before walking away, I checked the nut for perpendicular one last time, and it was rock solid. Done!
(photo of installed nut below)
Nut adjusted, reinstalled and string tension applied.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Let me know if you have any questions of comments.

Lee