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This is a collection of experience and incidents such as I can remember some of my misspent youth and thrash through my later years.

The beatings will continue until moral improves.

Designed and Built to Fail

We have all seen the videos and read the stories. Well, here is a short real account of an all too often demonstrated poor design and build, resulting in failure, causing this poor old renter to repair.

We retired going on six years ago to a rental near the beach in Southern California. The building dates to 1971. And it shows.

Some of the building has been updated, but since it is a rental and people who own such stuff having a certain outlook that seems quite counter to logic, much of the building remains in a state of slowly eroding poor design and build. This short essay addresses one kitchen drawer.

As can be seen in the above photograph the construction is plywood. The face is mitered molding around a plywood panel. This has had the two sides stapled to it. No drawer pull is installed.

First the design relies on staples somehow finding purchase in layers of plywood, which as evidenced in the photographs this is clearly not the case in that the staples have engaged the face panel at just two plies in from the inside. The side plane displays evidence of moisture undermining the non-marine grade adhesive used in the plywoods manufacture and with no finish applied the panel is a fifty-plus year old ticking time bomb of designed decay. Cheapness never pays dividends.

The edge view of the side panel displays the staples installed near enough to the edge of the plywood panel to split it to the end at each staple some of the outer most ply/s being displaced. The panel of course is no longer tight to the face of the drawer.

Of course this failure forces the side panel wide at the drawer front causing the drawer to close poorly as well as require greater force to open with the now splayed drawer side dragging on the cabinet frame. Both the cabinet frame and the side of the drawer showing wear from this.

To effect a repair with minimal expense of either time or money I decided to first bond the split face panel plies together then bond the side panel back to the face frame at both faces in the joint.

With the plies fairly well bonded after six hours clamped, I added glue to the end of the side panel to drawer face joint and clamped that overnight.

Once the clamps were removed the joints are tighter, though not perfectly tight.

Sliding the drawer back into the cabinet and feeling the easy glide home was satisfying. All of this could have been avoided with a better design and build.

I have seen dovetail construction of joints used with plywood panels before that were tight and true. The dovetail joint doesn’t require any fastening beyond glue so there is nothing to split the wood and accelerate failure and decay. using marine grade plywood or a good finish over the wood would have been better design as well. All of those alternatives cost money and require more craftsmanship and skill. I had to nearly the exact same repair to the house we sold when we retried, only I made those shortly after we moved in. A few of the drawer fronts had split in the same fashion as this drawer. They were of a similar design though. of oak veneer plywood that in place of moulding around the far were routed leaving the plies exposed, but stained and coated in polyurethane. Still they were not dovetail joints. They were solid oak face frame cabinets of the highest grade the builder offered as I was told by original homeowners in the neighborhood.

So, little things to look at when buying or renting until the next episode of the Crank Journals.

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