Hardware: Mending Plates
A mending plate is a metal connector that is used to repair or strengthen joints in wooden furniture, picture frames, shelving and for many other household connections. Mending plates are available in straight, T-shaped, flat L-shaped and bent L-shaped designs. We’ll talk about what each shape is used for in just a bit. Regardless of the shape, mending plates are pre-drilled and countersunk for use with flat head screws. This allows flat-head screws to be screwed down flush with the surface of the plate, thus, minimizing the total thickness of the connection paraphernalia.
Generally, a mending plate is laid onto the surface of the area to be joined, repaired or strengthened and it is then screwed into place with four flat-head wood screws (more for the T-shape). For additional strength, plates are used on both sides of the connection. And, for even more strength, through bolting provides the very most secure connection. Mending plates are also used to connect, strengthen and repair plastics, metals (steel, aluminum, etc.), glass and other solids. Naturally, in some cases, rubber gaskets and through bolting must be used to make an effective connection.
We promised an insight into what each shape was used for, so here goes:
The straight shaped plate is used for end-to-end and side-to-side connections. Also, straight brackets can be used to join wood that has split. One of our kids jumped into bed one evening and split a sideboard. We used glue and several mending brackets to repair the split. We then added mending plates to the other side as a preventive measure for the “next jump”. To make this kind of repair the plates are placed perpendicular to the split with an equal number of holes on either side of the damage. The T-shaped mending plate is used to connect 2- or 3-pieces of material that intersect in a t-shaped fashion. A good example of a t-connection would be where the horizontal center rail of a screen door connects to each of the side rails. Another example would be were a spindle and handrail meet. The Flat-L-shaped mending plate is designed for corner connections. A picture frame with loose corners would be a prime candidate for L-shape mending. The bent L-shaped mending plate is designed to be used on inside corners. Furniture such as cabinets and chairs can be quickly strengthened with the addition of bent L-shaped connectors.
Here’s another important use you may not have thought about. The L-shaped connector is perfect for stabilizing tall pieces of furniture such as armoires, china cabinets, entertainment centers, bookcases and breakfronts. One side of the bracket is screwed through the wall covering and into a wall stud and the other side of the bracket is screwed into the piece of furniture that you want to stabilize. An ounce of prevention can provide tons of cure in the event of an earthquake, tornado or hurricane – depending upon which part of the country you live in.
Installing a mending plate is really easy to do. If the connection is new, simply place the pieces to be attached into their desired positions and connect them in the normal way (glue, nails, screws, etc.). Next, lay the mending plate in place and use a pencil to mark the screw holes. Next, use a punch, awl or drill to prepare the material for screws. Finally, with the material predrilled, simply install the brackets. By the way, when making a glued connection be sure that the clamps remain in place until the glue has completely dried. Using mending brackets should never preclude the use of the regularly accepted attachment method for the project. For example, when an L-shaped connection is being made the corner joint should still be glued and nailed or screwed together in the conventional fashion. Remember, the mending bracket should be used to “improve the strength of a connection” – not as the “only” connection.
Using the mending plate to make a repair is unbelievably easy. Especially, if you use a clamp to hold it in place while the repair is being made. First, clamp the bracket in place (where you want to install it). Pre-drill the holes for screws and install them. Release the clamp – job done! When we repaired the bed we didn’t need a clamp and we used a screw gun to install the screws, which eliminated the need for the pre-drilling step. It was definitely a quick and easy repair.
Mending brackets are available in other shapes that can be used for angled connections and for special applications such as in the manufacture of furniture.
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