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I have a bed frame from about 1900. It feels like it looks somewhere between Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts. I say this to indicate that it is antique, gorgeous, and in need of a repair I do NOT want to screw up.
Plant Wood Door Tree Wood stain


Wood Rectangle Couch Window Door


As you can see, the rails are attached low on the headboard with screws above and below the rail. The problem is that the tall headboard and footboard flex these joints forward and back as you move the bed around, etc. A number of the screws no longer fit their holes—the holes have stripped out. I’ve tried replacing some with larger screws but that has turned out to be a temporary fix. I am looking for a “minimal damage” repair, suitable for antiques, that somebody with only slight repair experience can do.

The vertical member is 1.75” square, hard oak. The iron braces are about 1/4” thick. The old screws are something like #10 (shank is about 1/4” diameter), and 1 3/8” long. The next size up about fills the holes in the braces.

I saw a pocket-screw thread that mentioned drilling the hole out, gluing in a dowel, and starting fresh with that. I like that idea. I vaguely thought to fill the hole with a two-part wood filler (“bondo for wood”) I use for dry rot repair, but this sounds stronger and a far better solution for an antique.

The screw holes are about 3/4” center to center. If the screws are #10s or #12s, do I need something like 1/2” dowels? Which leads me to worry there isn’t going to be much original wood left between them. Harder to do, but would I be better off to chisel out the wall between, and insert a block that spans both holes? I have some wood saved from a 1930s armchair I could use for the plugs. Dry as bone and hard as iron.

If anybody has advice that will keep me from doing something stupid, I’d love to hear it.
 

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A dowel plug is the traditional way to fix a stripped screw hole. I strongly recommend an appropriately sized tapered drill bit - ot easy to find in a store, readlly availabke online. If the wood between the screws is in good shape, I would just do a plug for each hole. Use the minimal size dowel you need, may be only 1/4 or 3/8. The screws that are ok but could use some help you can squirt some CA glue in the hole.

Anytime screws are close together they can fail, moreso if it’s a softer wood. It would have been better to have one through bolt top and bottom.
 

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A dowel plug is the traditional way to fix a stripped screw hole. I strongly recommend an appropriately sized tapered drill bit - ot easy to find in a store, readlly availabke online. If the wood between the screws is in good shape, I would just do a plug for each hole. Use the minimal size dowel you need, may be only 1/4 or 3/8. The screws that are ok but could use some help you can squirt some CA glue in the hole.

Anytime screws are close together they can fail, moreso if it’s a softer wood. It would have been better to have one through bolt top and bottom.
I do not understand "tapered drill bit." Are saying a tapered plug should be used?

George
 

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Another option is to drill out the screw holes all the way through the upright vertical post/member.... hole being 1/4". On the back side of the post, insert a 1/4" T-nut into each hole. Use 1/4" bolts to secure the iron braces. Being careful not to tighten the bolts too tight.... don't want to break/crack the iron plates.

Another option is to fill the present screw holes with appropriate dowels, stain if you want to color match. Raise the side boards 1" and drill new screw pilot holes in the posts.... i.e. raise the side boards a bit. Those old beds are generally low, so raising the side boards shouldn't be an issue for either the head or foot board.

Sonny
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What I would try first is to drive a wooden match stick into the hole with some wood glue and let it dry. That usually will get the job done. Another option would be to drill the hole out and put a threaded insert in it. Then use a machine screw in that hole. You could also drill all the way thought and insert a tee nut from the back side. It would never tear out again.
 

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I do not understand "tapered drill bit." Are saying a tapered plug should be used?

George
I think he means a straight hole for a straight dowel, but then pre-drill for the screw with a tapered drill bit.

The dowel trick will probably work, but probably won't stand up to abuse. Screws don't typically last too long in end grain.

I think brass screw bushings would stand up better over time. You still drill out the hole, but instead of inserting a dowel, you insert a brass sleeve with machine threads on the inside, and wood threads on the outside. For this, I recommend 1/4"-20.

 
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I think he means a straight hole for a straight dowel, but then pre-drill for the screw with a tapered drill bit.

The dowel trick will probably work, but probably won't stand up to abuse. Screws don't typically last too long in end grain.

I think brass screw bushings would stand up better over time. You still drill out the hole, but instead of inserting a dowel, you insert a brass sleeve with machine threads on the inside, and wood threads on the outside. For this, I recommend 1/4"-20.
BC is correct on the tapered bit 😉 but I disagree on the inserts and the end grain screws. 😟

I think the screws are too close together for inserts.

As long as you use hardwood dowels it’s fine. Match sticks in a bed frame? 😳

Sonny’s idea would work, too. 👍

THE most secure way would be through bolts. There is a reason bed frames are bolted together 😈😍

I think we should read other’s posts before posting the same thing (guilty as charged) 😁………I do try to give credit where it’s due. 👍
 

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Repaired several on a wood boat I am working on. I use the dowel method and it works really well. If that were mine this is exactly what i would do. Should be a long lasting fix and it is hidden from view.

I like to make my own hardwood dowels, usually oak because it is a tough wood. Not impressed with most dowel stock. They claim they are hardwood but it is pretty soft. If I can, I cut my own dowels so that I am driving the screws into cross grain instead of end grain, stronger that way. This is one of the places I like to use epoxy instead if wood glue. It will fill any gaps better.

Drill proper pilot holes for the new screws! Taper bits are the best for this.
 

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I'd be using hardwood dowels, most likely Birch. I would want a cleanly drilled hole and then use epoxy, not glue.
The epoxy will be a better bond because the chair wood is end grain and the dowel is long grain.
To assure the drill is centered in a buggered out hole use a countersink first, just a small amount.
Dowels typically come in 1/16" increments, so you'll have a choice of 1/4", 5/16" or 3/8" unless you find metric dowels?
Match the drill bit to the dowel size as close as possible and file or hack saw a small groove along it's length to allow the epoxy to flow out as you tap them in.
A groove will prevent it from pushing back out from hydraulic pressure in a stopped hole.
Tooth picks may have worked for quick and dirty repairs, but for "high stress" applications like this, I would want a more secure fit.
"T" nuts or inserts are also good methods, but an exposed "T" nut on the far side would destroy the authentic value and would be very unsightly.
Inserts would work unless the hole are too close together to prevent a good thread purchase in the adjacent wood?
 

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There is a difference between a dowel and a plug. Dowels have the grain running lengthwise, and plugs have the grain running across.

Screws hold far better in cross grain than end grain. Using a dowel will mean the screw is going into end grain, and it will be much weaker than a plug where the screw threads into cross grain.

Or, you can try using this. I've used them on many stripped screws in my house and they never fail.

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I think SonnyAgain has the best corrective measure with the carriage screws and tee-nuts on the backside after repairing the damaged wood, if seeing the nut isn't offensive.
 

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BC is correct on the tapered bit 😉 but I disagree on the inserts and the end grain screws. 😟

I think the screws are too close together for inserts.

As long as you use hardwood dowels it’s fine. Match sticks in a bed frame? 😳

Sonny’s idea would work, too. 👍

THE most secure way would be through bolts. There is a reason bed frames are bolted together 😈😍

I think we should read other’s posts before posting the same thing (guilty as charged) 😁………I do try to give credit where it’s due. 👍
If you use a dowell properly sized it will work the only drawback is you will be adding a screw into end grain wood.
A better possibility would be to introduce the screw to face grain wood. You can do this by drilling out a proper size hole and installing a face grain plug created with a plug cutter typical tool here (typical images link below )
The plugs tend to be somewhat shallow so you may have to use two in a single hole but the screws will hold much better in face grain wood. Use hardwood BTW not pine for the plugs. 3/4 plug cutter home depot - Google Search
Alternatively if you go the match stick fix along with the match fill the hole with slow set epoxy (30 minute stuff) this will alloe a better tighter grip of the screw and fill the voide in the hole the match stick will not.
Lastly if you want to go modern, drill out the screw hole and install your typical plastic wall lag images here plastic wall lag - Google Search also recommended with some light coating of epoxy.
Lastly try Rockler they have metal inserts as well as face grain wood plugs link

calabrese55
 

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I think we should read other’s posts before posting the same thing (guilty as charged) 😁………I do try to give credit where it’s due. 👍
It's a race condition when someone adds a post while im typing mine, but I do try not to repeat other people's suggestions.
 
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If you use a dowel properly sized it will work the only drawback is you will be adding a screw into end grain wood.
Using a dowel will mean the screw is going into end grain, and it will be much weaker than a plug where the screw threads into cross grain.
In theory thats true in a board, but not a plug.

If you drill a plug, insert a screw and get a hammer, a plug will break apart much easier than a hardwood dowel.
 

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I'm in the epoxy camp also.
Just working with epoxy this morning ( on my boat build) and for filling gaps you use what they call wood flour (just finely ground sawdust). It's like iron when it drys.

I would oversize the hole and just get one of those 2 part epoxy syringes and after mixing slowly add saw dust till its like about a peanut butter consistency .
No thicker than that or it won't bite.
Then force it into the hole with a small stick (like popsickle size).
Tape off all around with painters tape to keep things neat.
Give it 24hrs before you redrill.
 

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Another option is to drill out the screw holes all the way through the upright vertical post/member.... hole being 1/4". On the back side of the post, insert a 1/4" T-nut into each hole.
View attachment 443770
I agree with this. Use flat head screws and you won’t change the appearance from the front. The t-nuts are notvauthentic, but they won’t show, and more importantly they will be secure and won’t cause further damage.
 

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Well, you can fill the present screw holes with good dowels, predrill pilot holes and reinstall the screws. That IS a good fix.... I've used that kind of fix often. Nothing lost.

IF that fix doesn't last over 5 years, then you have the option of trying a more robust approach. When the 5 year fix fails, come back here for a new set of remedies. Again, nothing lost, so its a win-win situation.

Edit: Flying off the handle with my latest replies. Monday I turn 70 and tonight I had one too many, so my tongue is wagging with further comments. Like to think I still have some sense, though.

Sonny
 

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No epoxy . No Bondo. Dowels will work just fine. I've done this many times and never had one fail. As for dowel sizing, you drill out the old hole to remove any wood that has had contact with the threads...nothing more. You don't need to put in large dowels, you just need to make it all solid wood again. Use the smallest drill bit possible to remove any compromised wood, and then glue in your dowels. You should drill through the center of the hole to the backside with a 1/16" drill bit because, if you have a tight fit between the hole and the dowel with glue on it -- as you should -- the dowel will act as a piston when you drive it in and could split the wood unless the air in the hole can escape.
 
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