A helping hand

That looks like a job for a table router

When our big kitchen dining table broke the other day, I wasn’t sure it could be fixed. But after I’d squished under with our son and we looked at the broken culprit, a piece of wood stay that had sheared in half, I thought maybe we might be in with a chance. The screws holding the residual half in place were tight, but I managed to extract them without too much difficulty.

Fortunately, although one of the stays had long since lost most of its rebated edge, the crucial part that holds the top in place and allows it to slide, this last broken one with its sheared part just holding on, could serve as a template for a new piece. I thought, I know just the place, the men’s shed at Balmaclellan, which is where I took my broken parts yesterday morning.

Sage heads nodded as I explained my problem, and showed the new piece of wood that seemed to match the final size. ‘Yeah, that’s done with a router, that is.’ A good thing, I thought, that I’d already made my acquaintance with just such a machine on earlier visits to the shed. But the router bit I’d used then had created a knurled edge, and for this job a right angle was required.

A helping hand was near, and after much perseverance we managed to extract the inopportune bit and replace it with the correct one. The bushing too that was required to grip the bit, which might or might not have been the right size, was definitely holding — we breathed a little sigh of relief at that good fortune. We offered the wood up for the first pass and discovered that the bit had gobbled a bit too much out of the crucial rebate. And I’d only brought the one piece of maple wood table support I’d parasitised from another job.

Fortunately, however, we managed to adjust the bit height, or the fence distance, to leave just enough of a lip to suffice. After a bit of chisel work, a couple of quick hand saws to make the two new stays and two spares, the morning’s work was done and it was time for the coffee break.

All I had to do, back home where the broken table lay waiting, was to drill holes and a counter-sink, to receive the six screws that will hold the stays in place. Such a relief to have shared the collective wisdom of men with a bit of wood-working skill! And now I know how to change a router bit, how to set up the machine to nibble away at the piece of wood that needs its special groove, and how to achieve the result I’m looking for. Should I need to repair the stays again, I have more maple pieces of just the right size, and I have the knowledge I need to do the job, and indeed, a convenient router at the men’s shed to use when it’s required. We all laughed at that intrinsic code some of us have: ‘keep a thing — its use will come!’

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, eh?! As long as a helping hand is available to show you how.

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