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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Repairing back of dresser


QUESTION: Hi.  I have a rosewood gentlemen's dresser.  The backing has come lose and I need to put some new staples in it.  I have two questions.  First, I know the size of the crown of the staple is inch and inch in length.  How do I determine what gauge a staple is it?

Second, how do I drive the staple - would a hand stapler do the trick or do I need to use pneumatic stapler?

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,

Scott Tully

ANSWER: Scott,

I would compare one of the existing staples that you have with the ones you plan on using. I don't think the gauge of the staple is that critical - when you go to buy them, you're probably only going to have one or two choices. Buy the closest thing.

Yes, you will need a pneumatic stapler - too hard to do by hand.

If you don't want to go to that trouble, why not use some small brads (pre-drill first) or some small screws - maybe #4 screws?  Personally, I wouldn't staple the back on - I'd screw it in place. That way, it won't work itself loose over time. And screwing is probably easier to accomplish.

Good luck, hope this helps,

Jamie in Vegas

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Jamie - thanks for the info.  Very helpful.  I have a two-part follow up question.  I have a number of dresser with stapled backs.  Since screws seem more permanent, why aren't they used in the first place - is that a question of saving time as a stapling can be done much more quickly?  

Second, I'm concerned with using screws if the back gets push out and the back breaks off of the screws.  Is that something I should be worried about or do the back just come loose over time due to swelling and contracting of the wood vs. the staple and due to normal use of the dresser which stresses the joints?

Thanks again for your suggestion on the screws because I like the cheaper solution (don't need a pneumatic stapler nor a compressor) and the solution is a more permanent one.

Hi Scott,

Yes, you nailed it (no pun intended) when you asked if staples were used as a time saving measure. In production shops - time is money. So the faster they can do something, the better. Stapling is WAY fast.

The reason that the back probably worked loose over time is that there is no thread on the staples. As the wood dries out or shrinks, the staples just work their way loose. This usually doesn't happen with screws, or with ring-shank nails. That's why RS nails are used in applications where they really need to hold tight - like roofing areas, drywall, etc. Screws will not work their way out at all - the threads keep their "bite" in the wood.

So - I'd use screws and I think you'll be fine - there's almost no way the back is coming off, unless you have a great deal of force pressing out on the back. In that case - almost nothing will keep that back in place - something will have to give.

If it was my dresser, I would absolutely replace those staples with screws! Good luck, Scott.

Jamie in Vegas

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Jamie Yocono


Woodworker, Furniture designer/builder, industrial arts educator. Bachelor degree in Furniture Design, and journeyman carpenter, with a 4 year apprenticeship. Currently owner of custom furniture/cabinet shop in Las Vegas, NV. Can answer most woodworking questions EXCEPT those regarding repairs, refinishing, and antiques.


Bachelor in Furniture Design - Ohio University (1980) Journeyman Carpenter, Local 639 Adult educator - Developed adult education woodworking program for the University of Akron, and taught classes there for 9 years. Opened a private woodworking school in Las Vegas, NV and teach private and semi-private lessons. In 2011, I will begin teaching UNLV woodworking classes at my school. Sweet!

Furniture Society

Tile Design and Installation Magazine (Article on inlaying tile into wood)

Journeyman Union Carpenter Bachelors degree in Furniture Design (Ohio University) College of Hard Knocks!

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