Addendum – Loose Battens


Over the course of two or three months, the top shrank almost 3/16″.  This was no problem, since I had only glued the first inch or so of the battens, allowing the top to slide along the rest.  The battens look a little odd sticking out the back, but it’s not a big deal.  What was a problem was that the battens also shrank in width, loosening their grip on the sliding dovetail sockets.  This has contributed to the desk wobbling like a newborn giraffe.

I set about driving some nails through the top into the battens.  I used two handscrews to clamp them together.  Unfortunately, the near handscrew was really in the way, causing me to use an awkward, abbreviated hammer stroke.  Before I realized what was happening, the upper part of the nail shaft had bent in an S-curve and was driving into the top next to the primary hole.  And I dented the top trying to extract the nail.  Arggh.

Moving forward, I only used one clamp in the middle of each batten.  The other nails went in fine.  I sunk them below the surface a bit with a nail set.

After all that, the battens still hang down at the end, though not as far as before.  I think it’s just the last two or three inches between the nails and the end.  In general the desk seems more stable than before.

Then I decided to try raising the dents I’d made with the nail set and other slips using the clothing iron and wet rag method.  It did diminish the dents somewhat, but at the cost of creating a white blush in the shellac.  I love when I create more problems while trying to solve an initial problem.

Sometimes you can fix the shellac blushing with a rag dampened with alcohol (the solvent for shellac).  You have to be careful not to dissolve too much of the shellac though.  I figured this was severe enough to warrant sanding it down some and then applying new shellac.  One of the nice features of shellac is that the old finish partially dissolves as the new finish is applied, so they tend to blend together.  After a few coats, the discoloration had mostly gone away.