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How to fix those things that squeak and wobble

September 20, 2013 

If wood cracks, repair with wood glue and clamp overnight.


The pine kitchen table was getting more rickety by the day. The 6-foot workhorse had been through a lot over the years: thousands of meals, hundreds of homework assignments, numerous bill-paying sessions, a million cups of coffee, and six moves through three states.

Each time the table moved, it was taken apart and put back together, until the legs were as wobbly as a new foal’s.

I swore to myself: Next time I move, I’m making darn sure that table gets put back together tight and right.

Moving day came last week. So did my well-timed encounter with an all-star fix-it guy. Chris Tice, of Orlando, Fla., is an electrical engineer by trade and a home improvement blogger for

Since my new house came with a kitchen table, I decided to use the old pine piece as a desk. I had the perfect place, a small room off my master that overlooks the street, which I planned to turn into a writing nest.

Tice looked at the disassembled table and spotted the problem. The table legs were attached to the table by a large screw that passed through a metal bracket. Time and use had caused the screw to make the bracket hole larger, the way a finger works a hole in a pocket. The screw had also lost its once tight grip where it sank into the wood.

Two washers (one lock washer for tension and one plain) set between each screw and bracket, and some glue on the screws would tighten things right up, Tice said.

We turned the table over. I gave it a test shake. It didn’t budge. I asked if he would help me move it into my study. That’s when I learned that tape measures lie.

“You sure it fits?” he asked.

“Yes. I measured.”

Soon we were stuck wrestling a too-big table in a too-small room, trying not to scuff the walls, flipping and turning the table until … CRACK.

He repaired the freshly broken joint with wood glue and a strong clamp, letting it dry overnight. Today, the table is in parts again in the garage waiting for the next move. When that day comes, I will know exactly how to put it back together.

From this experience I learned many lessons that apply to home projects and to life:

Life is short. If something is driving you nuts – the door squeaks, the drawer knob falls off in your hand, furniture wobbles – don’t live with it. Stop whining and fix it or find someone who can.

Figure out the basic mechanics. “Step one to fixing anything,” Tice said, “is to first understand how it works, then figure out what’s not working.”

Measure twice. Before you commit to putting a big piece anywhere in your home, be very sure it fits.

Leave some wiggle room.Also consider the angles before hauling a sofa upstairs and around a corner. You need space to turn around.

Try the simple solution first. In the case of the rickety table, putting simple Elmer’s school glue on the screw before sinking it back into the wood helped stabilize the weak grip. For a squeaky door, Tice says, remove the pins, rub them with a bar of soap, then stick them back in the hinges. It smells better than WD-40.

Marni Jameson is the author of “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo).

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