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Visit our Catalog section. The catalog section is made up of pages of thumbnail pictures of items useful to the do it yourselfer, for instance, the kitchen pages have trim molding, hardware, a bunch of do-daddery you might never think of and lots of other things.

Well, I've done what I've always said that I would never do. I've had the particle board experience. I've repaired a lot of particle board and I've attempted to repair some that defied repair of any kind, but repairing is a lot different than starting from scratch with your own piece of particle board furniture.

Our eight year old granddaughter needed more cabinets in her archeological dig, aka bedroom and I didn't have time to build them, so it was off to the store to buy something to make do until I have more time.

We bought a real nice looking, oak? particle board cabinet in a long flat box that weighed a ton and the fun began.

There's always a lot of interest in particle board, so I think I'll dedicate this newsletter mostly to particle board.

Quick tip

When you're tightening screws in particle board resist the temptation to give that last little extra turn after you get it snug. Snug will hold nicely, but 1/4 turn past snug can strip the screw hole.

What is particle board?

Particle board is a panel made with wood products, chips, shavings, sawdust and just about any leftovers from milling lumber.

The leftovers used to always be burned, but some quick thinking person decided to take all the chunks and such and mix them with glue to make a slurry, then press the slurry with high heat and pressure and lo and behold a panel was formed. Some manufacturers use an extruding method, making a long strip and cutting it to length for panels, but the single sheet press is the most used.

Earlier particle board didn't stand up well under exterior applications and it was pretty weak, but as time went on and more research was done a fairly passable substitute for large panel wood applications was devised.

Quick tip

If you give that extra 1/4 turn of the screw and strip the screw hole in particle board you can squirt glue in the hole (yellow carpenters glue is best) and fill the hole with wooden match sticks. Wooden match sticks are better than toothpicks or something similar, because the wooden match sticks are very soft and the wood will squish out into the voids left in the sides of the hole in the particle board.

Particle board fasteners

Nails in particle board are right next to useless. Screws used to hold particle board are different than regular wood screws. Particle board screws have a skinny shank and wide threads, both in relation to the width of the shank and the distance between the threads.

KD fasteners are another common fastener for particle board. The KD stands for knock down. The KD fasteners make it a lot easier to disassemble a piece when you discover that you've put a piece in backward or upside down. Heh, heh, yep it even happens to those who have many years experience and should know better. Actually I think it was the directions. Once when my granddaughter was six she said, "Grandpa, when in doubt read the destructions". Sometimes I think that fits perfectly.

The KD fasteners are a shank with threads on one end and a knob on the other and the other portion is a round object with a keyed slot around it's middle and a screw driver slot on it's top.

A KD fastener is generally used when an edge needs to butt up against a flat surface. The shank portion is screwed into the flat surface. The round portion is set into a hole just it's size in the flat side of a piece near the edge. There is a hole drilled through from the edge to where the keyed slot is. The shank is inserted into the hole in the edge and through the keyed slot so that when the round part is turned it catches the knob on the shank and a cam action pulls the two pieces together.

If you're building something out of particle board or have misplaced a fastener for an existing piece or something has broken, we have particle board fasteners and screws available.

KD fasteners aren't limited to use in particle board. If you want a good strong wood joint, but don't want the appearance of screw heads or screw hole plugs you can use KD fasteners and glue and you'll have a good strong joint without evidence of fasteners on the outside.

Particle board in furniture

People involved with making and selling furniture with particle board in it will extol it's virtues. They have to if they're going to put meat and taters on the table. Some are actually convinced that particle board is better than solid wood.

I'm not convinced that it's a good idea. Although particle board is hard, if you take a piece of smooth raw particle board and put a drop of water on it it'll swell and get fuzzy. The same thing will happen if a scratch or cut goes through the finish or veneer on a flat surface and water gets in the cut.

Over time expansion and contraction will cause joints to loosen and particle board screw joints seem to tend to strip easier with a second tightening.

I would never advise against buying furniture with particle board in it, because there are some circumstances where it will work ok and some times finances would allow a house full of nice looking particle board base furniture for the price of a room full of solid wood furniture, then as finances permit the particle board can be replaced piece by piece with solid wood.

I think it's important for everyone to realize that there will probably be very few pieces of furniture made with particle board that will be around long enough to become antiques, so if you're looking for a lifetime investment in furniture it's best to go with solid wood.

Quick tip

If the edging has come loose on your particle board furniture and won't stay glued down you can replace it with new edge strips. You can use self stick plastic, self stick wood veneer or solid wood strips that will need to be glued and fastened with brads. You can use your iron to apply the iron on strips, but put a piece of clean paper on top of the strip and iron through the paper to keep your iron from getting yucky.

Particle board repair

We won't be able to cover all types of repair in one newsletter, but we'll cover a few now and more in later newsletters.

Adjustable shelf brackets.

If your shelves have the type of bracket that pushes into a small round hole and you periodically move the shelves up or down, the hole will eventually chip away to the point that the bracket has a lot of play and will sometimes fall out of the hole. There are two remedies. You can drill the hole to the next larger size since the hole is already slightly enlarged, for example most bracket holes are 1/4 inch, you would need to drill the hole to 5/16 inch, then glue a piece of dowel of the correct size into the hole, then after the glue dries, drill a new bracket hole in the dowel.

A much quicker and easier way is to take a ruler, yard stick or other straight edge and hold it exactly in the center of the two bracket holes and make a mark at least 1/2 inch from the worn hole and drill a new hole. The old hole can be left open, because it's so close to the surface of the shelf that it isn't noticeable.

Broken chunks from an edge.

If a chunk is broken, but still attached, leave it attached and work glue into the break with a piece of stiff paper or a glue injector, then put a cover of plastic wrap, to keep glue away from your glue block, then use a flat piece of wood for a glue block to keep from damaging the surface and clamp very tightly, preferably with C-clamps.

The reason for leaving the piece attached is that the edges will be less noticeable than they would be if the surface was broken completely away.

If the break is on the outside where it will be noticeable you can mix some paint to match the finish color and use an artists brush to paint the cracks. The repair will probably bulge slightly, but that's generally as close as you can come with particle board repair.

If the repair is on the inside where it won't be noticeable and there is enough room you can apply a mending plate to add strength.

Mending plates are pieces of metal about 1/2 inch wide and anywhere from one inch to six or eight inches long with pre drilled screw holes.

Use a mending plate long enough so that the two outside screw holes are outside the repaired break and will have the screws going into solid unrepaired particle board.

Be sure that the screws you use are short enough that they won't go clear through the thickness of the particle board. Regular particle board screws are too long for a repair of this type, so it's best to use sheet metal screws rather than regular wood screws. The sheet metal screws have a much wider thread pattern than wood screws and wider is better for holding particle board.

You can repair chipped and tattered edges with trim molding. Bottom edges seem to be especially vulnerable to chipping. You can find some trim molding in our new catalog section.

Email question - painting bookshelves and unfinished furniture

email question. . . . .


I just bought two new oak bookcases with really nice finishes. I would like to paint them white so that I can get that built-in look. I haven't a clue what or how to go about this. I've asked a couple of people, but get different answers. I do not wish to strip the finish if possible.

Another project I have is painting unfinished mahogany furniture. Any advice you can give for either is greatly appreciated.

Reply. . . . .

The finish that's on the bookcase is a good base for painting. All you need to do is prepare them so the paint will stick. You can sand lightly with 180 grit sandpaper, which is a lot of work. You have to sand all the nooks and crannies or the paint may peel where it isn't sanded. A much easier way is to use a liquid deglosser. It saves a lot of elbow action and is much quicker and more efficient than sanding. Follow the directions on the can, then paint and you should have a good smooth paint job.

Take a look at our web page, unfinished furniture and toward the bottom of the page it gives information about painting unfinished furniture. The whole page except for the part about staining and finish gives information about preparation of the surface.

For painting unfinished furniture take a look at EF Sanding sealer, it's a water base sanding sealer and can be used with water base paint. Use a couple of coats of sanding sealer and sand between coats, then apply the paint. With this procedure you'll need to sand rather than using the deglosser, because the sanding is for smoothing the surface. Use a 180 grit sandpaper. The sanding sealer sands real easy after it dries and makes an ideal surface for painting without having the paint soak into the wood.

Well, we seem to have come to the end of the space for this newsletter

Next time we'll get back to more of a mix of topics, since not everyone is interested in particle board. We'll add more particle board repairs as time goes on.
From our Refinish Furniture Newsletter May 24, 2003
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