Sticky Drawer Taxes My Limited Abilities

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I consider myself an adequate handyman — plumbing excluded, for which I have no aptitude. I also shy away from anything electrical that is more complicated than changing out a light switch or rewiring a lamp. But when it comes to basic carpentry and repair tasks, I generally feel confident enough to tackle it and not call one of my more skilled relatives to come to the rescue. You don’t want to go to that well too often. People start dodging you even if you have promised to treat them to a nice Tex-Mex meal up the road at Tele’s once the task is complete.

So, when a large kitchen drawer started sticking as we pulled it out a few weeks ago, I yanked it off its railings to find the problem. The shelf is a doublewide. It contains two silverware trays and numerous other utensils. When filled, it is quite heavy. The previous owner likely didn’t put nearly as many utensils in the drawer, but we like having them all in one convenient spot. One of the railings was bent a bit, and the plastic caster was loose. I grabbed my favorite tool, a rubber mallet, and straightened out the railing, used a separator clamp to push the two railings into their proper spot, and glued them in place.

This minor project required three initial trips to the shop. I keep a small bag of tools in the garage, but most of the tools are in our 30×50 foot red metal barn, which contains a woodworking shop; my small CrossFit gym with rower, ring rows, weights, and other implements of torture; a medium sized tractor; a zero-turn mower; and a few dozen storage boxes. The whole down-sizing idea didn’t really take hold when we moved to the country, though I managed to get rid of a storage unit that was costing $1,500 a year.

The shop is down a hill and about 250 feet from the house. The faint outlines of a path are becoming visible as I trudge back and forth, grabbing more tools. I left the clamp in place for several hours, then slid the drawer back in, put all the utensils in the drawer and tested it out. It had a slight hitch as it was pulled out but seemed to slide OK.

One thing I have learned over many decades of fixing things is that getting it right the first time — for me — is the exception, not the rule. I have learned to accept that it is likely I am not going to succeed in fixing a running commode the first try – a rare dive into plumbing I am willing to attempt. Thus, when the drawer first stuck, and then when yanked harder by my Beautiful Mystery Companion tilted up into the air at an angle that screams, “I’m broken again,” I knew how I would be spending last Saturday.

I decided the problem was the rails were worn out after more than 16 years of use, took off one of them and headed to the Big Box Store to buy duplicates. Another truism of DIY is that I will return to this store several times before the task is completed. The drawer was held up by a wooden frame that had to be removed to install the new railings. In doing so, the back piece, stapled to the cabinet, split in two, requiring me to build a new frame. Back down into the shop I trudged, picking through my pile of lumber. I pulled out the compressor and air nailer, built the frame and carried it all back up the hill. With the railings attached to both the frame and drawer, I carefully installed the frame, making sure it was level.

The drawer slid in and out perfectly. I shouted, “Victory!” My BMC, who knows my skills well, said, “If it slides in and out 10 times, we’ll know it’s fixed.” On the 11th slide, the drawer stuck again, pointing upward. Muttering imprecations under my breath, I managed to wrestle it out and once again emptied its contents on the counter. I decided it was time to take a break, pick up a book and console myself with a glass of wine. It was 5 o’clock somewhere.

I pondered that drawer much of the night and concluded stronger railings were needed to handle the weight. I started over the next day, back to the Big Box Store, up and down the hill to the shop time and again. The pedometer on my iPhone informed me I was fast approaching 10,000 steps for the day – nearly all of it between the house and the shop.

The drawer worked fine when sitting on the worktable in my shop, sliding easily in and out of the newly built frame. With help from daughter Abbie, we propped the frame up with the complete set of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. This is the most use this lovely, 11-volume set has gotten since I bought it piecemeal at various bookstores over the years.

The drawer once again stuck. I pulled it out and realized it was not completely level, thus putting it in a bind. It was time to postpone this battle for another day. The utensils are still on the counter. My BMC was sympathetic, and a bit surprised I wasn’t more frustrated.

 Hey, I’m used to it. At least it is easy to get to the silverware, all within easy reach on the counter. I’ll take another stab at that drawer this weekend.

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