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 Screwing Together an Ash Frame
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United Kingdom
718 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  09:07:18  Show Profile
I've been comparing my kit of new M Type ash body pieces with the extremely weather beaten originals. I note that some screws were fitted into end grain - for example the door pillars. I have always found screws pull out of end grain. Is it worth gluing in plastic plugs to take the screws or are the 80 year old methods still OK. Just to bait Mike I have seen suitable plugs in B&Q.


Jan T


United Kingdom
647 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  16:13:39  Show Profile
None of the brass screws that were fitted to my new home assembled body [the M-type that is! - although a new one for me at the moment would be quite a good idea] in 1979 have ever come undone in the 25000 miles since.

Tony M
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David Allison

United Kingdom
665 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  16:21:47  Show Profile

At the risk of teaching third generations to vacuum albumen!

The standard method was the drill and then screw the components together - the guys who did it never thought for a moment that the frames would last any longer than 5 years.
The original chippies did I think also glue the screws as they fitted them (horrible horse hoof gue probably).

Once the frame is skinned and bolted to the chassis the screws dont actually do that much - except squeak and occasionally snap.
I did have a chap ask me once why the factory bothered countersinking the locating stud holes? - until I realised that in fact most of the screw heads had in fact snapped of leaving him to think that the body frame was pinned together.

I think if you try plastic plugs (quite apart from upsetting Mike Ellis)you will not only make too much work for yourself - but also not come up with a major improvement - or indeed make the frame any stronger or longer lasting.
Inserting plastic plugs might in fact make the risk of splitting the wood more likely.

Besides the plugs in Homebase and Wickes are cheaper and Screw Fix will even deliver them and they are cheapest of all!
I think the best way to upset the purists is to use cross head chipboard screws - the last body frame I saw with these fitted even moved me to threaten a box of matches at and I am a very mild mannered soul.

Regards David

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Richard Hardy

United Kingdom
2098 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  16:40:52  Show Profile
Don't use brass screws as they are not really strong enough. If they snap on torquing up then you have a problem to sort out. Some people do not like cross-heads but they are easier to drive in and torque right up. Once the tub is skinned, you cannot see most of them. I suppose it is similar to putting a modern crank and diaphram clutch in a MMM car. Each to their own!

Rich H
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Bob Stringfield

United Kingdom
854 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  19:45:56  Show Profile

I am told to use stainless-steel, slot- or cross-head, screws in wood rather than mild-steel or brass. Comments?
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United Kingdom
1516 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  20:12:44  Show Profile
When I built a replacement ash frame for the knackered one in my J2 about 30 years ago, I went back to adult evening class at my old Grammar School. The same woodwork teacher was there who taught me at school (nickname "Chisel"). He was a very nice chap and was pleased to see me. When I produced the component parts of the dismantled original J2 frame, I think he felt I was being rather ambitious. He then went on to say that he could show me how to make a new frame using the old pieces as patterns and the rest was up to my learning abilities. He told me to go away and source a suitable tree, which I duly did. That in itself was a bit of a headache and I eventually found a massive lump of ash in an old wood yard which was about to close down. It had been 'seasoning' for well over 50 years and had obviously come out of a huge tree.

It took me well over a year of attending evening class to complete the frame and I remember one evening planing away when the plane started 'catching' as if on a nail. The teacher showed an interest and when we looked closely, we could see a lead musket ball buried in the wood. I still have it somewhere and have wondered who was put up against the tree and shot or whether it was just a stray.

Anyway, back to the question, "Chis" taught me to drill a pilot hole before putting a wood screw in. The pilot hole size is quite important and is best assessed by trial and error on a spare piece of timber. I used countersunk mild steel wood screws. None of the joints were glued although we did use Cascamite to bond new bits of timber to any original bits which were worth saving.

We also put grease on the screw threads to aid assembly and to discourage rusting. I guess you could use stainless screws, but preferably not brass ones which could snap and shear more readily. Personally, I have found modern coarse threaded cross-head screws a little prone to encourage splitting of timber and tend to avoid using them in dense woods like ash.

I recently did a huge 'hospital' job on an original P-type 2 seater body. Far too many hours spent and I should have bought a new frame, but I liked the idea of saying it was 'the original body'. I wasn't too fussy about materials or method, but I made sure it was strong. Very pleased with the result. I was partly inspired by an M-type I owned a few years back which had previously been owned by a longstanding VSCC member who had done what I term an 'acceptable bodge' job on the car's body 40 years earlier. The car had had a lot of use since then yet the body was still serviceable.

Unfortunately, some of the new 'repro' frames I have seen are of slightly dubious quality. I have an M-type awaiting fabric covering and I am not terribly impressed with some details of the body construction. With regard to the door pillars, I would suggest that the screws into the end grain do need to be quite long, but the pilot hole is vital if you are going into end grain otherwise it will almost certainly split. I believe that the M-type door posts have a hefty angle bracket bracing them to the floor which, if I'm right, will mean that the screws into the end-grain won't be doing all the work.

Blimey, that was a long post! Anyway, just a few observations.

Edited by - kimber on 17/01/2008 21:52:15
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United Kingdom
149 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  23:09:34  Show Profile
sorry to tag on,
i have been ignorant to so many things during my build that have come back to haunt me, all this talk of tubs has me thinking.
What are the signs of poor woodwork? (now its painted)!
I'm starting to get paranoid reading these comments!!!
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John Reid

United Kingdom
698 Posts

Posted - 17/01/2008 :  23:14:03  Show Profile
Andrew, you are not alone - the story goes that the Morgan Motor Company also had trouble with machining the ash they bought from France/Belgium - embedded bullets from the First World War!

John R
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Rodney Collins

United Kingdom
424 Posts

Posted - 18/01/2008 :  22:20:00  Show Profile
A Carpenters tip to stop wood splitting when a screw is fitted, as suggested first drill a pilot hole and then stand the screw to be used on a bench or hard surface and tap the point with a hammer to blunt the tip. Sounds daft but all chippies do it if they do not want the wood to split, and yes it works.

Ratty ( formaly known as Rodney)
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