Not long ago, my wife and I were browsing an antique mall looking for old tools, old dishes, and old books. In one stall, I opened a cardboard box to find a large expansion set of wooden train tracks. There were lots of tracks of all shapes and lengths, and even several suspension bridges. My kids and I enjoy setting up our wooden train set, so I scooped up the expansion set, despite the fact that several of the tracks had pieces broken off.
On the way home I considered several methods of fixing the tracks. Nearly all of the tracks had the same problem–the dowel and ball that allows two tracks to connect had fallen out, and in most cases was missing altogether. (On newer sets, such as the one we already had, the connectors are integral and are much sturdier than the old design.) I knew I couldn’t duplicate the dowel-and-ball method, so I settled on a modification:
I planed a flat on a dowel and then drilled a series of holes most of the way into it. Then I sawed it into short sections and glued in a second, thinner dowel. I bored out the old holes in the tracks and glued in the new connectors. (I didn’t measure for depth. I just drilled the holes extra-deep and inserted the new dowel only as far as it needed to go.) Finally, I used a block plane to plane the new connecters flush with the tracks. I had nearly a dozen of them to do.
The end result is reasonably sturdy, and the whole operation took me maybe an hour.
Once the glue dried, my kids and I built a huge train system that covered nearly half the living room floor. I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy driving a freight train over a series of suspension bridges.