Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Furniture making techniques with solid wood.
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Chris Pyle
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Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:41 pm

I'm curious about everyone's thoughts on curating wood specifically for the contact portion of drawers/slides? I know Chris has made mention of Lignum Vitae and it's incredible properties. Dense, oily, etc. Since it's difficult to find, i was searching for replacement woods with similar characteristics. There is Verawood/Argentine Lignum Vitae but it's also trade restricted (although less so than regular LV). Are there other suitable replacements?

Have there been any experiments with soaking wood in oil for this purpose? Would it weep (wouldn't look to good running down the front of a cabinet)?
John Whitley
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:54 pm

A random thought: in machinery, sometimes this sliding contact role is filled by "self-lubricating" materials, such as acetal resin (aka Delrin). In that vein, and lacking a suitable natural vitae replacement, I wonder how well it would work to apply a vacuum chamber plus a stabilizing resin[1] to create an "artificial" lignum vitae? Is there any precedent for this application of stabilized wood?

[1] Such as Cactus Juice and similar products, sometimes used by woodturners to stabilize spalted or otherwise "punky" woods prior to turning.
Gadge
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:36 pm

Where I have had to replace runners, the materials have usually been soft like pine drawers and pine runners. When these get dry they gall and wear very quickly. My remedy has been to use wax polish on the surfaces. Works well but needs to be reapplied periodically.

Plain bearings use hard shafts running on soft bearings to reduce wear. I wonder if hard and soft together might work for drawers. Say, pine draws and oak or similar runners. I don't have experience with this but might work.
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Chris Hall
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:35 pm

Chris,

as a minor clarification, lignum vitae is not oily. Rather it is waxy. It defied being glued - even Oak and Teak Epoxy, which works like a charm on Burmese teak (which is oily) failed on lignum vitae. It's an astounding material, and as you say, hard to obtain and expensive. I've stockpiled it (on a minor scale) for that very reason. Now that there is just one importer of the material into the US, and his customer base is primarily hydroelectric facilities, prices have shot out of sight for lignum vitae.

I think though that lignum vitae goes beyond what would be needed for the application of which you speak. Lignum vitae can withstand vastly higher pressures than are ever going to be exerted by a drawer or similar.

I think the main thing is finding a wood which has good surface hardness and polishes well - a 'slick' wood'. You can simply prepare different woods and rub them against one another and themselves to see how much friction there might be and find something that way. One could perform tests using a pull scale even. Put two sticks together, place a suitable weight on top to press their surfaces together, and then pull the upper stick with a scale to see at what force it starts to slide. Something like that

Soft woods are not going to work too well for the most part, though possibly mountain grown Douglas fir could be tried. Pacific yew could work, but that's a hard one to find on the market. American Black Cherry probably wouldn't work so well, and neither would walnut. But Jatoba and Ipe would probably work nicely. I found bubinga to work nicely. Any rosewood would be fine I think, but again, problematic to obtain. I'm sure there are plenty of satisfactory options - I wonder what woods were used for sled runners?
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Brian
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:31 pm

Oak works well for me, I use quarter sawn to minimize movement and this provides a flat sawn wear edge.

I've had sycamore recommended to me and may use that soon.
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Brian
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:03 pm

I thought to mention that shoji, made of softwood, work nicely against hardwood tracks mainly because the wear surface of the softwood is end grain.

I tend to assume most of the reason for wear in shoji is from dirt.
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Chris Hall
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:33 am

John Whitley wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:54 pm
I wonder how well it would work to apply a vacuum chamber plus a stabilizing resin[1] to create an "artificial" lignum vitae? Is there any precedent for this application of stabilized wood?

[1] Such as Cactus Juice and similar products, sometimes used by woodturners to stabilize spalted or otherwise "punky" woods prior to turning.
Well I haven't heard of anyone doing that, however in Japan a common fix to improve the sliding of shōji is to apply a strip of psa-backed plastic sheet to the mizo in the shiki-i, so that is doing something similar in terms of applying a plastic interface I suppose.

In regards to the product you linked, Cactus Juice, I suspect this would have limited application for most pieces of furniture due to the application method:
"Cactus Juice cures when the temperature of the resin within the blank reaches 90º C for 6-8 minutes. The typical small shop method for curing is in a counter top toaster oven until internal blank temperature reaches the cure temperature for 10 minutes or more."
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Brian
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Re: Sliding contact surfaces (drawer runners/door slides)

Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:10 pm

I've used Delrin for drawer glides before. It's great as a wear surface.

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