Abject Failure

February 4, 2016  Hours spent building to date:  2,087

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Look at this giant boat filling my shop.  Until now, I can’t think of one project that I haven’t been able to complete either properly or through guesswork and liberal quantities of epoxy filler.

But today I had to declare defeat due to two ordinary, perfectly rectangular drawers in the sleeping compartment — dozens of which fill every house in America.

Construction of the drawers went exactly as planned.  I don’t have the equipment to dovetail the sides into the drawer box fronts, so I used the wonderful Miller Dowel system to make an extremely strong joint, and filled the dadoes (slots where the front and sides meet) with epoxy to be on the safe side.  The decorative front that is attached to the box is beautiful cherry that the lumber people said was grown locally.

But to make the drawers go in and out of the casing beneath the “desk” I decided to go with full-extension, ball bearing, stainless steel drawer slides.   I guess I figured my socks and underwear needed some kind of super-drawer.

Given the layout of the boat in this area, I had to use a face frame around the drawers and build out the rails to which the slides would attach flush with the frame.  I realized this might be a bit more challenging than I thought when I found the structural frame which forms the side of the desk was out of plumb over it’s length by about a quarter inch.  So I made the necessary adjustments and proceeded to install the extremely complex slide hardware.

Then I slid in the drawers — the top drawer would only go in half way before binding, and the bottom would go in all the way on one side, but simply would not close on the other.  The reason quickly became evident — the two structural frames to which everything attaches are not parallel — and for this fancy system they absolutely have to be.  So I started shimming, trimming and tearing the whole thing down over and over again until FOUR HOURS later I gave up.  I had reached that terrible point that happens on carpentry projects when you are fixing the fixes and nothing is left that is square.

The sides of the drawer area are not the sides of a perfectly square cabinet made in a precision shop.  They are boat frames that were not made to micrometer measurements to begin with, and since then have had stringers, rails, planking and beams fastened to them and have no reason to be perfectly square.  So I made “story sticks” to get the exact, exact measurements inside the cabinet which I could use to compare to the re-made spacers and rails, and totally redid the whole thing.  Nothing was off by more than 3/16th of an inch, but that is more than enough to make ball-bearing slides bind.

This afternoon I put everything back together, but still no go.  Still out a half-inch on both drawers.  Doesn’t sound like much, but imagine walking past a chest in your own home with the drawers kind of sticking out a little bit at random angles.

So I was trimming and shimming away trying to get that half-inch out of there about 4 this afternoon, when one of the support blocks split in half.  So I said, “This is not to be” and tossed out the whole works.  Within an hour I had constructed plain jane wooden slides and had the top drawer in with no problem.

I was bemoaning all this to Molly when I got home late tonight.  She said, “Maybe a wooden boat should have wooden drawer slides to begin with.”  Out of the mouths of babes.

In good news, the head sink surround looks spectacular after four coats of epoxy, and the head compartment itself is as done as it’s going to get until time for plumbing.

Two drawers seem to use an awful lot of wood.

Two drawers seem to use an awful lot of wood.

Doweling up the drawers.

Doweling up the drawers.

Miller dowels at work. Four would have looked better.

Miller dowels at work. Four would have looked better.

Drawers ready to go.

Drawers ready to go.

$100 of stainless steel ball bearing slides all ready to go. No problem here!

$100 of stainless steel ball bearing slides all attached and ready  to go. No problem here!

Day two -- starting from scratch on whole drawer structure.

Day two — starting from scratch on whole slide structure.

Two days work -- one lousy drawer.

Two days work — one lousy drawer.

This does not make up for the drawer fiasco, but comes close.

This does not make up for the drawer fiasco, but comes close.

Head compartment. Tacked in -- finish will have to wait for plumbing.

Head compartment. Tacked in — finish will have to wait for plumbing.

One comment on “Abject Failure

  1. David Calloway
    February 5, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    I feel your pain… I live in a 105 year old wooden house and have been re-habing the drawers in the kitchen, hallway and pantry…if anything was square, it sure isn’t now. Two set of fancy drawer slides later, I’m using wood.

    Glad you got it to work. Keep up the excellent work.


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