Saturday, February 18, 2012

Simple Fix for My Computer Desk

Back in late summer/early fall, I got a new-to-me computer desk from my Dad.  It had a minor defect.  One day Dad had pulled the keyboard tray out a little too hard and the rubber stoppers (at least on one side) gave way, resulting in several ball bearings on the floor.  Dad's solution was to bolt the pieces together and just leave it fixed in the out position, which certainly worked well enough for his purposes.

At this point, I should show you what kind of tray we're dealing with (this is after I fixed it my way):

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I was a little more ambitious about getting a good working computer desk.  I thought about trying to find replacement side rails.  To my knowledge, these are not standard side rails, but I did visit Windsor Plywood and might have tried Lee Valley, except that I was in Brandon when I was at this particular stage of my thought process - Brandon doesn't have a Lee Valley.  For a time, I thought I might try to use the more standard side rails often attached to wood sides, though I scratched my head a little and then shook it after I considered the difficulty of attaching the rails to metal sides, which might have required drilling some holes in metal and hoping the heads of the fasteners didn't stick up too far on the inside of the rail.                              

All I really needed was some extra ball bearings - not the complete product called a "ball bearing", but the individual balls that are contained in what is commonly called a "ball bearing".  Here you can see where they would need to go:

 I went to Home Depot, hoping to find either a few steel balls or something that could be used as a surrogate for them.  I had some far out ideas that wouldn't have worked when I looked at some swivel wheel casters - as low as $2.00 a piece.  Whoa!  Clearly a source of little steel balls.  My collection of tools was sorely lacking an angle grinder and this provided all the justification needed to buy one.  Here is the result of using it:


I realized afterwards that it would have worked better if I had applied the angle grinder to the underside of the caster.  If you look carefully at how they're constructed you'll see why.  (You'll just have to try it yourself - too much to explain without a picture and too much bother to find or make a picture.)

Here I am putting the last two ball bearings in - holding them in on both sides and pushing the ball carriage assembly (?) in the rest of the way.  As you can imagine, I did the same for each set of two ball bearings that I put in.


Then I put in the rubber stopper:



The next step was to insert (push from the end as if pushing the tray in as usual) the tray side (part of the rail directly attached to the keyboard) of the rail into the ball carriage assembly.  Some back and forth movement was required as I got the assembly to be more fully engaged with the tray side of the rail.

The result has some room for improvement:  the steel balls were just a little bit smaller than the existing ones (on the other side of the tray which was still assembled properly).  This results in uneven friction on the left and right sides of the tray and hence the tray has a tendency to "shimmy" side to side as I pull the tray out or push it back in.  I should have opted for one of the $3 or $4 casters.
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