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Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser

  Bedding Hardware 1 of 4  

I believe repair and restoration work to be the best training for woodworkers, regardless of what you are making out of wood.  You get to see which practices work, which don’t, and which won’t over the long haul.  Besides learning which joinery lasts and which doesn’t, fixing other peoples’ poor practices helps in preventing your own and usually puts the future reparability of your own work high on your priority list where it belongs.

Sorry folks, but if your work isn’t easily repairable, you are merely doing expensive preparation and storage of fuel for the next generation’s marshmallow roast.  That may not bother you if it holds up long enough for your purposes, but who knows?  It may break your granddaughter’s heart some day, if that’s the only family piece she has.

For boat-builders, just wandering the yards to study derelicts is useful.  Picture your boat at that age and state of neglect…because dollars to donuts it will be both of those some day… paint gone, sheathings perforated, and rainwater coming in unhindered.  Will it hold up even as well?  What level of neglect will cause it to become uneconomically repairable, and how quickly?  Most importantly, what’s the difference in man-hours and materials between a job good for a few years and a job good indefinitely?  In these days of better glues and sealants, that difference isn’t much.

The first step on the path towards that marshmallow roast, whether the boat is wood, glass or metal is usually where metal meets wood in a hole…. how the hardware is bedded.  Drilling, threading and the attendant torque, even when done by the best workman, damage the wood fibers slightly, and damaged fibers are where rot begins. Rainwater is the big killer because mold and fungus love it…that hole has to be sealed, and ideally, that sealant will remain effective even when the fasteners loosen a bit over time with seasonal wood movement and that condition goes uncorrected.

Basic hardware bedding involves protecting and sealing the hole. Here, the screws were driven and the hardware installed without any bedding, and then removed for the holes to be coated generously with a paint poisonous to mold and fungus… shown is red lead… and the paint allowed to dry.  Then the hardware is removed, the faying surfaces coated with a marine sealant and reinstalled.

Also critical, but a separate subject, is sizing and driving screws and fasteners… for here I’ll just mention that the more damage to the threads, the quicker the rot, and that while power drivers are great for running fasteners up close, torqueing them down is a job best done by hand.  No machine clutch has the sensitivity of a brace or a Yankee driver.

Escalating up the scale of effectiveness, screw holes are easily bedded in epoxy…and in exceptionally soft wood like this old-growth cedar, it is necessary for longevity. My forbearers wouldn’t have used cedar here because it won’t take a hinge… but with epoxy, I get to enjoy cedar’s better longevity. 

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
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