Assistance and advice sought for woodworking / furniture repair.

We have an old jewelry/etc chest that my wife has owned forever. She doesn’t use it as she’d like to, because it’s falling apart. Specifically, it’s spreading apart, and it doesn’t hold the drawers where it should.

My plan is to find some of the 5/16" material that the drawer slats are made of. I’ll cut a large section or two to fit snugly across there (between two existing slats), then I’ll glue them in-place, using a few large, woodworking clamps to hold the shape/size of the sides of the chest while the glue dries. I’m expecting this will hold the shape and keep the sides from bulging out.

Will this work? What am I overlooking? Is there a better way? Thanks in advance!


From what I can see in the picture, it looks to me like the drawers are designed to slide upon rails which are surface-mounted.

Your pictures do not make it clear why the distance between the left and right sides is now too great for the drawers to sit atop the rails. The horizontal and inner vertical planes of those rails appear to be pretty sharp and even, so it’s not looking like repetitive use has worn them down to the point that they are slanted and allowing the drawers to fall. Instead it would appear that the left and right sides of the armoir have been allowed to move apart. Until the cause of that is stopped, smaller repairs will be worthless.

Off-hand I might suspect that the glue holding the larger framework together has dried out over time and the sides are no longer tight. However, I’d have to inspect more closely to know for sure and I’m too many miles away to just drop by for a quick glance. I can’t ascertain whether the top of picture #2 (the close-up) is showing the front edge of a ring tray or the front of a horizontal ‘bar’ of wood. If the former, then the sides of the armoir are attached to the piece of wood above and their attachment points are what keeps them from spreading further apart. If the latter, then it’s possible the sides of the armoir also attach to that bar in the front, either via screws or via dowels (quite possibly with glue, as well).

You might be able to open the doors on the sides (necklace racks, right?) and see if there are screws (or holes where screws used to be) for attaching the sides of the armoir to that wooden bar in front.

You might also try to ascertain whether the vertical sides of the amoir have become warped (bowed outward). This could occur after long periods of moisture in the area, with or without heavy weight pushing downward on the top of the armoir. If the sides are warped, your best bet is to replace it. I believe they still sell similar units at JC Penney.

Best case scenario:
[li]The sides are not warped or bowed. [/li][li]The horizontal piece at the top of picture #2 is a connecting piece rather than a ring tray.[/li][/ul]
You can either replace the lost screws or drill & counterbore new holes in the sides to go into the top connecting piece, then use new screws to attach the sides more firmly to the connecting piece. That may be all you need; just restabilizing the sides so that the rails align at the right heights and distances apart.

If it was mine (my wife’s) I’d replace the rails with wooden pieces that are equal in depth into the armoir, thicker coming away from the walls upon which they are mounted and shorter in height as you look at them – by about 1/8" so I could mount a MDF board (or pegboard) smooth-side-up atop each pair with countersunk screws. Then each of my ‘replacement shelves’ would go into the armoir to replace pairs of rails so that the drawers would ride on the MDF board and each shelf would attach (via countersunk screws) to the sides to help maintain the distance between the sides.


Hi Grestarian!, Thanks for the info and insight. It’s greatly appreciated. I’m sorry for my delayed response; we’ve had a house full of kids here for the holiday. Now that the house is ~ empty, I’ll have more attention to spare.

I don’t see any screws inside the side panels that would have fastened any supports. I’m under the assumption that, over time, the sides have bulged. I measured the distance between the sides. At the top it’s 11" even. In the middle it’s 11.25 and at the bottom it’s about 11.125". As i was up-close to the piece, I also noticed that the sections at the top have spread out, exposing the dowel pins. Pushing those sides back in-place should tighten things up a bit. I’m going to take out all the drawers and see how tightly it will fit back together. It’ll give me a new base-line.

It sounds like your helpful solution is to fabricate and fasten little shelves for the drawers to slide on. This way the drawers wouldn’t be dependent on the small slider slats attached to each side. Did I read that right? Thanks again!

You can see where the sides have pulled away from the top cross-beam. Look at the exposed dowels.
Pull all the drawers, pull out the sides as far as they will go, apply wood glue to the dowels and re-clamp.

Good eyes, Beowulf!
I could not see those dowels when I was studying those pictures.
Thus, I thought that bar might have been a shallow pull-out drawer – a tray for holding rings.

Regluing where the dowels are is a good initial approach.
Take the time to do so at the bottom, as well.
If you’re lucky, the only problem has been that the glue dried out over the years and allowed the sides to come loose.
If not, more drastic measures may be needed but you won’t know for a couple months.
Open a new thread if necessary.

And, yes, my point was to suggest mini-shelves instead of rails for the drawers to sit upon. One could (with difficulty) go a step further and glue or fasten the mini-shelves atop the replacement rails and then fasten the rails to the sides, thereby making each of the mini-shelves do double duty since they would help hold the left and right sides in alignment.

The trick is to make the replacement rails shorter than the original rails. How much shorter? Just the thickness of the board you’re using as a shelf; that way the combined shelf + replacement rail will fit in the slot for the original rail. I merely suggest MDF hardboard, also known as *Masonite *because it usually has a very slick side that you could put on top so the drawers sit on it and slide easily in and out.

Whatever you decide to do, update this thread with fix pix when you’re done!


I was able to fix it quite well. I appreciate the info and confidence provided from you guys’ feedback. I glued and pressed the dowels back into the top and bottom of the piece. As it turned out, there was a floating (riding in, but not fastened to, a cutout on each side) shelf that spanned from side-to-side in the approx center of the chest. I used it as a strut between the two halves, gluing the shelf into each side’s slot. Seems to be holding fast. I’ve updated the photos at the original link. Thanks again!