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#1
Old 01-17-2009, 08:37 PM
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Lubricant for wooden drawers?

I have a wooden desk that is about 50-60 years old. Great piece of furniture, but as of late, the drawers seem to be harder to pull open. Perhaps just wear?

I have searched, and wax or soap seem to be the popular recommendations. However, I seem to recall from years ago a guy recommending some kind of lubricant that is used by antique dealers to great effect. Any ideas?
#2
Old 01-17-2009, 08:43 PM
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What about powdered graphite? It leaves a low profile if carefully used and is an effective lubricant.
#3
Old 01-17-2009, 08:56 PM
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Try a bit of soap...from a regular bar of soap. My mother-in-law used it, my mother used it, and I've used it.

Doesn't seem to harm the wood either!
#4
Old 01-17-2009, 09:12 PM
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Paraffin
Bee's wax
Plain bar of soap w/out moisturizers.
Lemon Pledge

That's it for the list.
#5
Old 01-17-2009, 09:58 PM
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First make sure the engaging surfaces are clean i.e. no grit or dust, cat hair or the like.
Then use a hard paste wax to coat the bearing surfaces, polish off. Bees wax can be gummy by itself, but it's OK. I like Minwax. It has a benign odor.
If you have a quality piece of work with well fitted drawers, that is all you need. The action should be easiest in winter and tightest in summer.
#6
Old 01-17-2009, 10:21 PM
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I agree with wax. I think powdered graphite would make a black stain that might grow.
#7
Old 01-17-2009, 10:59 PM
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Something is binding. If the humidity is not changing, the unit may be loosening at the joints a little bit allowing drawers to start binding.

What was said about lubrication up thread but check for level and you might even pull all the drawers completely out, and check the unit for excessive wobble. Screws, nails and glue joints may need some tightening.

Are the drawers getting over loaded? Is there an larger then normal load on the top? (big TV etc.)

Just like a car, they need preventive maintenance once in a while...
#8
Old 01-17-2009, 11:11 PM
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I really have had a lot of luck with plain old fashioned Ivory Soap. It is cheap, lasts for years and works well without any damage to the wood.
#9
Old 01-17-2009, 11:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What Exit? View Post
I really have had a lot of luck with plain old fashioned Ivory Soap.
Yup, soap's good stuff for sticky wooden drawers.

http://wikihow.com/Fix-Sticky-Drawers
#10
Old 01-17-2009, 11:31 PM
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I, too, am betting that there's another source to the binding if soap/wax isn't working. Humidity can play a big role in how wood, especially old, dry wood, handles.

If it's a valuable antique, then call in an expert. If not, you may try to sand the drawer edges and/or runners to try to relieve some of the bind and finish it off with a good coat of soap/wax.
#11
Old 01-17-2009, 11:56 PM
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We used paraffin when I worked at a furniture store.
#12
Old 01-18-2009, 01:26 AM
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You can find the paraffin in the canning section of your grocery store, usually near the spices and baking goods or the coffee and tea. The most popular brand is Gulf Wax. It costs like three or four bucks for a pound.

Plus, paraffin will have the added benefit of sealing the wood.
#13
Old 01-18-2009, 02:56 AM
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A secret mix of paraffin, beeswax and linseed oil, IIRC from my neighbours who ran a furniture shop. It was their all purpose mix for polish and lubrication.

I've always had great success with candle wax rubbed onto the runners.
#14
Old 01-18-2009, 03:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacon Salt View Post
Plus, paraffin will have the added benefit of sealing the wood.
Do you melt it in order to apply it, or do you just rub it on the right spots? It seems like just rubbing it on wouldn't seal anything. If you melt it, can you give any more info about the application?
#15
Old 01-18-2009, 03:24 AM
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I've always just rubbed the (paraffin) candle directly onto the wood. Friction during use would cause some to sink in. I was taught to rub the flat of the candle over the sides of the drawer, which would form a waterproof coat, before putting a heavier layer of wax along the runners.

Last edited by maggenpye; 01-18-2009 at 03:26 AM.
#16
Old 01-18-2009, 03:56 AM
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Usually just rubbing paraffin or soap will get enough lubrication onto the wood. And it's a damn site easier and neater than trying to melt the stuff and apply it.
#17
Old 01-18-2009, 06:18 AM
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I use talcum powder.

Important is not to mix the different systems. So use either graphite OR talcum powder OR some waxy stuff OR soap. If two or more of these components are used, the drawer comes to a grinding halt.

So it is worthwhile to find out what the previous owner used years ago, from still visible traces, and go with that.
#18
Old 01-18-2009, 06:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
What about powdered graphite? It leaves a low profile if carefully used and is an effective lubricant.
Do not do this, as it will get all over anything white stored in the drawers.
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#19
Old 01-18-2009, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squink View Post
Yup, soap's good stuff for sticky wooden drawers.

http://wikihow.com/Fix-Sticky-Drawers
It is a little funny, but we don't even use Ivory. I bought a bar for various wood working projects 8 years ago and that replaced another that I had from my first apartment. A bar of Ivory will last a long time in a basement/garage wood shop.

Building my kids swing set we found the screws were having a hard time going through the pre-drilled holes. I had my daughter sit on the grass and lightly soap the threads of the screws and it really helped assembly by a large amount.
#20
Old 01-18-2009, 08:32 AM
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If you peruse a table regarding coefficients of friction for sundry material, you'll find wax has a very low factor. Lower than talc and graphite.
Soap might be OK, as a screw lubricant it offers to corrode the fastener although that is not a short term concern.
You don't want to sand any bearing or sliding surface in wood, no matter how scrupulous the cleaning. Abrasion leaves a fuzzy (albeit microscopic) surface. Use a cutting tool, preferably a plane. A card scraper will do for hand held work.
But if the drawer(s) fit well to start, material removal shouldn't be in the solution.
#21
Old 01-18-2009, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ntucker View Post
Do you melt it in order to apply it, or do you just rub it on the right spots? It seems like just rubbing it on wouldn't seal anything. If you melt it, can you give any more info about the application?
No need to melt it. Fact is, rubbing is rather vigorously will soften it up. I used to work in an uncooled factory and the paraffin blocks we used became pliable at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yet another problem with graphite is that it's impossible to put the stuff only where you want it. Save it for the door locks.
#22
Old 01-18-2009, 09:50 AM
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I've always just used an emergency candle. Yes, they're sold under that description, usually in camping goods. No scent, no dye, and larger than decorative candles.

Also works well for screw lubricant.
#23
Old 01-18-2009, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Projammer View Post
I've always just used an emergency candle. Yes, they're sold under that description, usually in camping goods. No scent, no dye, and larger than decorative candles.

Also works well for screw lubricant.
Utility candles work great for lightly waxing some lines on a boat to. We use a lacing line to hold the main sail to the main mast and the wax really helps with raising and lowering the main sail. We rewax about once a month during the season.
#24
Old 01-18-2009, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunstone View Post
Try a bit of soap...from a regular bar of soap. My mother-in-law used it, my mother used it, and I've used it.

Doesn't seem to harm the wood either!
This works.
#25
Old 01-18-2009, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ntucker View Post
Do you melt it in order to apply it, or do you just rub it on the right spots? It seems like just rubbing it on wouldn't seal anything. If you melt it, can you give any more info about the application?
Other people have said it, but you don't melt it, you just rub the wax on any parts that rub against each other. And I misspoke when I said wax would seal the wood, it's going to protect the waxed areas from losing or gaining humidity to a degree but it won't be perfect.

Augh, I've said the word rub too much! Rub rub rub rub.


Rub.
#26
Old 01-18-2009, 05:46 PM
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You might want to take a look at this product:
http://rockler.com/product.cfm?page=214

or these: (I had to cut off the right-angle part for my application)
http://rockler.com/product.cfm?page=207

There are also a few other products in the category:
http://rockler.com/CategoryView.cfm?Cat_ID=42
#27
Old 01-18-2009, 06:34 PM
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old candle + wooden drawers = smooth and happy
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