Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wooden Planter Repairs

Here's a fine piece of wreckage that I found stashed away by the apple tree.

It was held together by wood screws at the corners. The screws were driven into end-grain, and that's seldom a sound practice -- it tends to lead to exactly what happened here.

I'll blow all the bugs and muck off it outside with compressed air before I bring it into the workshop.

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Here it is brought in.

Down in front you can see a screw end protruding. The thing was built to last one season, maybe. I think I can do a bit better.

There doesn't appear to be a bottom for it. I must ask my wife if it ever had one, or if the thing was simply meant to be a 'surround' for a potted plant.

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On closer inspection, I see evidence of there once having been a bottom in it. My wife tells me that she got the thing second hand without a bottom -- she just used it as a surround. That suits me fine; it saves me having to fabricate a bottom for it.

Here it is reassembled and cinched up with a band clamp.

I left the screws in place as I knocked it back together, so they'd at least act as locating pins. I'll delete the screws as I go along with what I have in mind.

Note the two fluted dowels perched on the near corner. What I'll do is I'll install two of those at each corner, cross-wise to one another. If that works out as I expect it to, the thing will be indestructible.

(The dowels are 5/16" diameter x 2" long. I'll use an outdoor-grade glue.)

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Here's the first corner done.

That went well. When I have all the dowels installed, I'll chisel them off flush, and seal their ends with CA adhesive.

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One of the bottom corners exhibited a fair bit of dry rot inside when I put the drill to it -- the drill didn't meet with much resistance at all. I installed the dowels there with plenty of glue.

A couple of the bottom corners wanted some extra clamping up before the drilling, like so.

Many of the screws were so far gone they wouldn't readily unscrew; I had to wedge a small screwdriver under their heads as a pry bar, so I could coax them to start out to where I could get a pair of side-cutters on their shanks, and help them come all the way out. Here's what's left of the screws.

Whoever manufactured this planter didn't even bother to use the appropriate coated screws. That screw in the middle is really far gone -- it's a 'screw' in name only.

Anyway, aside from the one 'iffy' dry-rotted bottom corner, this has turned out well. Tomorrow, I'll trim and seal the dowel ends, and this planter can return to 'active' service.

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Finishing Up -- SUNDAY, JUNE 2, 2013

Here's a view of two dowel ends trimmed flush.

I have a modified Dremel router attachment that's a great help for that sort of work. See this post for a look at that.

All that's left is to seal the ends of the dowels, and this planter can return to work.

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All Done -- MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2013

With that  planter out of the workshop, I can start in on this one.

I swear the makers of these things make it their business to ignore every known rule of sound construction with wood.

This planter's construction doesn't lend itself to the repair method I used on the first planter. I've got half a mind to just give it two bandings with stainless steel wire. The appearance of that won't be the best, but the alternative is to devote a huge amount of time and effort to an item that just doesn't deserve it.

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That thought reminds me that I have a ClampTite tool stashed away that I don't think I've ever used. It might be just the thing for this.

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Here it is,

along with plenty of stainless steel wire that my dad left me.

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Before I proceed with this, a note about safety is in order.

Wire can be a dangerous material to work with. Eye protection is strongly advised. The free end of a length of wire can flail about in unpredictable ways, and a tensioned loop of wire that breaks can do great harm.

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Here's the tool's initial setup.

Someone who's skilled at knot tying would probably find this easier than I'm finding it. I'm pretty good at spatial visualization, but I find this challenging.

What I have to do next is crank that wingnut to begin tensioning the loop of wire. I may run out of travel, and have to reset the wire's anchoring on the tool. We'll see how this goes.

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Here's the outcome.

The wire broke off before I could cinch up the ends more, but it looks like it's going to hold. The tool does work as advertised, but I need to learn how to use it more skilfully. I've got one more loop to install low down. I'll see if I can do better with that loop's termination.

Here's the second loop done.

On that one, I took the tool away before I could break the wire, and twisted the ends some more with pliers. I'll tuck that termination inward so it's not a hazard.

I hate watching videos, but I may have to to better learn the use of the ClampTite tool. The printed instruction sheet that comes with the tool is pretty lame.

Anyway, I appear to have accomplished what I meant to, and the result is not too hideous.

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Addendum -- Good ClampTite Instruction -- TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013

I watched as much as I could bear of two videos, and learned nothing useful. Then, I got lucky and found an excellent sequence of photos showing how to do correctly what I was trying to do here. Photos 15 through 18 illustrate correct termination nicely. What I didn't understand clearly before is that the single twist of the tool at the end of tensioning is the termination -- that's it; any further twisting is done with the tool taken away, and is only for the sake of tidying up the termination.

Note that while the photos show multiple turns of wire, the job is still considered a 'single' wrap because of its termination method. This page clearly shows the difference between 'single wrap' and 'double wrap' terminations.

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Addendum II -- Embellishments To The First Planter -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 2013

We decided that a proper planter really ought to have a bottom, so I installed one, like so.

Also, it dawned on me that if the planter had feet, even small ones, its bottom would dry out a lot faster after a rainfall, and wouldn't be nearly so prone to rot. I happened to have eight little furniture feet on hand that looked ideal, so here they are installed.

The feet are only 7/32" tall, but that's all that's needed to elevate the planter enough that it will dry out quickly underneath.

And with that, I'm calling this repair a done deal.

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Update -- WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2015

I was walking past the wire-bound planter the other day, and something didn't look right. I looked more closely and could see that the thing was collapsing -- it's rack inside the bottom had fallen away, and the wire bindings were loose. I was able to twist the upper wire tighter to some good effect, but the lower wire broke when I tried to twist it tighter. I didn't want to have to replace an entire length of wire, so I repaired the broken lower wire binding with a small turnbuckle I had on hand. Here's how that came out.

It's certainly not as discreet a wire join as you get from the ClampTite tool, but it's much easier to execute and much more robust.

I'll reconstruct the planter's rack inside, and the planter should have another season in it at least.

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