Monday, July 2, 2012

Fixing the Dresser Drawer. A Phyrric Victory Over our Disposable Society

The Ikea Dresser That Won't Die, Thankfully
When Rena and I first married, we bought our bedroom set from Ikea. It was cheap. Since that time, we've moved four times (Washington Heights -- Linden, NJ; Linden -- West Hartford, CT; West Hartford -- Oak Park, MI; Oak Park -- Yad Binyamin. Yes, that's a lot of moving. And we're moving again next week.), and, amazingly enough, our Ikea furniture has moved each time with us. Sure, the back falls off of the bookcases - nothing a hammer and nails can't fix. But our Ikea furniture has moved with us without fail.
Then we gave the dresser to our sons - and specifically to our youngest son. Folding clothing isn't one of his strong suits. He's more of a crumpler and stuffer. So it didn't come as much of a surprise when I learned that the bottom of one of the drawers had (yet again) collapsed.
In the past, each time this had happened I repaired the back of the drawer that held the bottom in place. I used brackets, screws, and even duck tape. But Ikea furniture isn't made out of solid wood. Nor is it made out of not-solid wood. In fact, I doubt that there's any wood in it at all. It's more of a paper composite of some kind. And that little piece of "wood" was done. Gone. There was no more retaping, mending or fixing in it.
"Throw it out", my wife told me. It has served us well. It's time to move on. Perhaps a new Ikea model for the new house.
I would have none of it. I'm not throwing out an entire dresser because the backing of one drawer went bad. That made no sense.
And yet, it seemed to fit perfectly with the throw-away culture of today. We eat on disposable dishes, and discard them after a single use. We never fix electronics anymore. It costs more to fix them than to buy a new one. How many people have their shoes resoled? So, if we throw everything else out, why should furniture be any different?
And yet, I just couldn't do it. The dresser was fine. Why buy a new one for a single piece of fake wood? There had to be a way to fix it! And indeed there was.
I have a very, very handy neighbor who loves to work with his hands (as I do). He made a gorgeous garden in his yard, complete with stonework, and a sprinkler system. When our washing machine went bad, he took it (somewhere) to salvage the parts. So I went to him with my problem. Have you got a piece of wood to match the dead piece?
He thought for a moment, and then took me to his machsan (storage unit), where he found an old cabinet door that had exactly the groove that we were looking for. And it just so happened that that very day, the kids had brought down a huge box of tools from our attic, which included my old circular saw and wood clamps. We were good to go.
We cut the piece down to size, and it fix the drawer perfectly. (Frankly, I think my neighbor was kind of shocked that I knew how to use a circular saw.) He then glued the piece on, and we nailed it into place.
This time, I had won. I beat our disposable culture, saving the Ikea dresser for yet another move. And I walked away with that sense of satisfaction that you can only get by actually fixing something with your own hands.
There's no better feeling than putting a repaired drawer on a dresser that your wife asked you to discard. "Throw it away? But it's perfectly good." And indeed it is. I went through the dresser with my son, folding his clothing and putting the dirty clothes in the laundry. (It became immediately clear that he failed to distinguish between "hamper" and "dresser". Who knew?) When we were done, the dresser was neat, and fully functioning.
Until this past week, when I learned that yet another drawer bottom had collapsed.
Back to work.