bob vila and the like, please advise!
April 1, 2011 12:38 PM   Subscribe

A screw that holds the wood facing facing of my silverware drawer onto the glides broke in the wood. After a long protracted battle, it ended up having to be "chiseled" out, making a big mess, and making a big crater in the facing. Good news, it is on the inside so it isn't an eyesore. Bad news, I have no idea how to fix it. I need to be able to put a screw back in - in that same spot. The crater/hole is about 1/4" deep and about 1" in diameter, and basically is as deep as the screw was drilled. I can't afford to go much deeper to grab into new wood bc it will drill into the front exposed part of the facing. My question is - can I use wood putty to fill the crater? Will that hold a screw strongly? Everything I've looked into about wood filler doesn't really address holding a screw that is used often so I'm not sure. Most talk about using a toothpick or matchstick but that won't work here because the crater is shallow and wide, and there is no hole anymore, just the crater. Handymen and women, please advise! thanks in advance!
posted by dublin to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, putty won't work. Can you drill another hole through the guide so you can move the screw to a place where there's more wood to bite into?
posted by jon1270 at 12:43 PM on April 1, 2011

I'd go with moving the screw. If you can't, it would be better to shape a piece of hardwood to fit the hole and clamp and glue it in as a plug, before putting the screw in. If there's room, you could maybe epoxy a thin sheet of metal over the area and use a sheet metal screw instead of a wood screw.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:47 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've used wood putty to fill some ginormous holes in hardwood flooring (I dyed the putty with all-tint to match) very successfully. However, it's got to cure for a long time to become rock-hard.

If you have the patience to apply the putty (sometimes it contracts while curing and you must apply additional layers) go ahead and do that. I'd let it cure for at least 3 days. Maybe a week.

My thinking here is you can't make it worse, and my experience is it will work just fine once the hole is completely cured.

**Leave the hole rough on the inside so that the putty has a lot to grip onto.**
posted by jbenben at 12:50 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Actually, StickyCarpet probably has it!

Use wood glue to attach the plug (but not too much glue.) Once dry (a full day at least) put putty over that and let cure. Then try the screw. Use a drill with a bit smaller than your screw to start the hole.
posted by jbenben at 12:53 PM on April 1, 2011

The facing on my drawers is perfectly symmetrical top to bottom.

Can you turn the facing upside down?
posted by jamjam at 12:55 PM on April 1, 2011

There is stuff called wood epoxy that you might be able to use for this. Not normal wood putty—it's got some structural strength. I'd experiment with a scrap of wood before committing to the drawer, though.
posted by adamrice at 12:55 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about making a wooden "patch" that overlaps the edge of the hole? Fill the hole with putty or a plug or whatever, but then cover it with the patch from the inside and see if you can use a longer screw. The wood itself (however thick you want) will hopefully give the screw something to bite into, while the overlap onto the original drawer front (anchored however you like) will keep it in place.
posted by Madamina at 12:56 PM on April 1, 2011

Instead of wood putty I would try epoxy putty - the stuff that's 2 colours that you have to knead together before putting it in.

The cons are that it doesn't fill cracks as well as wood putty - it's quite stuff. The pros are that it will hold a screw really well - I fixed an outside gate with epoxy putty after some screws pulled out of a hinge and WOW it has been solid ever since.

Since you won't see it much the colour shouldn't matter, but it's a dull grey.
posted by GuyZero at 1:00 PM on April 1, 2011

I've used wood putty to fill some ginormous holes in hardwood flooring (I dyed the putty with all-tint to match) very successfully.

The problem is that while putty has very good compressive strength, it has no tensile strength to speak of. You can drive a Mack truck over it, but it won't hold a screw against any significant force.

A wood patch wold work, if moving the screw isn't an option.
posted by jon1270 at 1:01 PM on April 1, 2011

My dad runs a furniture repair & refinishing shop, and what I've seen him do is much like what StickyCarpet recommends: cut a piece of hardwood to roughly the same shape as the hole, then glue it in with thick, resinous epoxy. After the glue has set, you can fill any remaining gaps with putty, sand the whole thing flat, and drill a new screw hole into the newly-installed plug.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:02 PM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

The standard answer for this is wood glue+toothpicks. Clean off the loose debris, then cram wood glue covered toothpicks in the hole until it's right, then allow to dry.

You don't really want to do putty/etc. Wood glue and toothpicks, or hardwood and toothpicks+wood glue as mentioned above. You're basically making a composite patch at this point..
posted by iamabot at 1:21 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure this would work, but I know an alternative to wood putty is sawdust mixed with glue. Seems like it might be stronger than putty? ('course you'd need to have some sawdust handy...)
posted by sarahmelah at 1:33 PM on April 1, 2011

I came in to suggest glue + toothpicks, as iamabot mentioned. I've had good luck with this method in similar circumstances.
posted by Shohn at 1:52 PM on April 1, 2011

Mars Saxman nails it.
To add, you could use a chisel that's, like, rrreally sharp, to give some sort of regular shape to your "crater", with straight, smooth surfaces. Then you make a hardwood piece to fit neatly, so you don't need all the messing around with putty and epoxy. I made repairs like this using birch wood inserts, hide glue, and only moderate pressure. If it fits well, it will behave like one piece of wood after the glue has dried.
posted by Namlit at 2:30 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's epoxy wood filler that's explicitly made to be able to drill/screw into. I got it at Home Depot.
posted by cmoj at 2:42 PM on April 1, 2011

You could fill the whole void with liquid epoxy - even the kind that takes 5 minutes to cure, if you're quick. It would not look woody, but it would hold a screw.

Those of you recommending toothpicks are missing the description of the hole. It's 1/4" deep and 1" wide. Toothpicks won't work, at least not the way they would in a narrow hole.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2011

If I can take a different approach... Who chiseled out the broken screw? If it was a contractor, they should fix the drawer for you because they should have just used an EZ-Out / screw extractor which are made specifically for this purpose. They did the job incorrectly, causing damage in the process, and they should fix it.

If this is something you did yourself, then yes you're stuck fixing it. Wood putty generally is not structural, it's useful for filling small holes etc. but not the best at giving screws something solid to bite into.

If you're trying to fill a shallow but wide hole about 1" diameter, I would probably suggest cleaning it out with a shallow/stubby spade bit slightly larger than your ragged hole (1-1/8" perhaps) and then cutting a wafer of slightly oversized dowel (1-3/16 or 1-1/4) to the appropriate depth and using wood glue and clamps to set it.

So, think of the "plug" to fill your hole as a checkers playing piece. If the screw will be going into the checker from the side, then the above should hold up well enough. If the screw is going in from the top of the checker, it is likely to pull out under strain.

If it is the inner part of the drawer and not the decorative face that is damaged, you're probably better off just rebuilding that entire inner face instead of trying to reuse and repair it.
posted by xedrik at 3:53 PM on April 1, 2011

In the same line of thinking as Mars and others, you could just get a big assed washer, one that covers the hole, then screw the screw into your drawer pull and forget about it.
posted by Max Power at 3:58 PM on April 1, 2011

I agree with Max Power. The item you're looking for is called a fender washer. It's looks just like a regular washer, except that the outside diameter is much bigger relative to the hole than a standard washer. This is not an exotic item, and one of your local home stores should let you have one for loose change. Bring your screw with you to make sure you get the right size hole.
posted by Itinakak at 4:28 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

jon1270 writes "The problem is that while putty has very good compressive strength, it has no tensile strength to speak of. You can drive a Mack truck over it, but it won't hold a screw against any significant force."

There are machinable epoxies that have good shear and tensile strength; easily as strong as wood anyways. I've used one to repair a broken ear on an alternator once.

I'd take one of two approaches:

If you had the tools the cheapest would be to drill out the hole to a nice circle using something like a Forstner bit which doesn't have a long locating point and then plugging the hole with a round piece of wood the right thickness. The draw back to this method is you need a fair bit of specialized tools (drill bit, drill press) and either a large plug cutter or the patients to make a plug using sandpaper and files from a square piece of wood. Note that you can't use a dowel if you want good results, you need something with edge grain instead of end grain.

Less tool intensive would be to set a threaded insert into epoxy. The inserts are available individually at Home depot and probably other home improvement borgs and it would allow you to make the repair without buying anything but epoxy, the insert and a matching machine screw. Even a regular two part paste epoxy like JB weld (tensile strength rating of 4000psi) would work because the insert spreads the force around. Just make sure the epoxy is pressed into the roughness of the wood really well.
posted by Mitheral at 11:46 PM on April 1, 2011

Mitheral: There are machinable epoxies that have good shear and tensile strength...

Yes, I know there are some very good epoxies out there. I was referring, though not explicitly enough, to the conventional filler that jbenben suggested.
posted by jon1270 at 2:51 AM on April 2, 2011

I agree with Mithereal. Get a forstner bit and a dowel of matching diameter. Drill in. Cut a plug from the dowel slightly larger, glue in place with wood glue. Sand.
posted by plinth at 3:15 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Max Power, the broken screw was not for the handle; it attached the slide to the drawer front. A big washer isn't going to address the problem.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:54 AM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good advice. It wasn't a contractor - unfortunately, it was me. And it wasn't my fault, the screw broke when it was being tightened down. I did try a screw remover tool thingy, but the screw was so small it could not get drilled into properly for one of the remover things to grab onto it. Alas, I aborted the whole thing since the big crater created was so close too going all the way through the wood and being a hole visible on the face. I ended up drilling an additional hole a few inches over, which solved the problem but I was hoping to avoid because that created a host of other issues not related. But it did work and was probably the easiest alternative. The washer idea wouldn't have worked, there was nowhere to put it. I didn't know there was epoxy that you could drill into, next time I will look for that. A dowel wouldn't work either, this is a shallow but wide crater. Thanks, mefi!!
posted by dublin at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2011

I had a similar problem with en entertainment center. My solution was similar to what xedrik described.

The hole that held the shelf pin in place got gauged, such that it would no longer accept the pin. Pin was 1/4", so I drilled out the hole with a 1/2" bit, then filled the hole with a piece of 1/2" dowel liberally coated with wood glue. Once dried, I cut the exposed end with a flush saw. Then I re-drilled the hole with a 1/4" bit. Worked great! (And I'm a total spaz at such things.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:26 AM on April 4, 2011

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