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I have a nice oak desk chair that's on caster wheels. The plastic wheel inserts used by the manufacturer broke up and crumbled, of course, because that's what plastic does when used in high-stress applications it shouldn't be used in.

I bought some replacement wheels with metal inserts, but the inserts are 3/8 inch while the originals were 5/8 inch, so the drilled holes are too large to begin with, plus they've been worn by the wheels wiggling about once the plastic inserts broke up.

This photo demonstrates what I'm talking about:

enter image description here

I see two solutions here:

  1. Fill the holes with wood filler and drill new holes to fit.
  2. Fill the holes with wood filler and then insert the new metal bases while the wood filler is still wet, basically gluing them in.

The downside of option 1 is drilling four identically plumb holes with a hand drill. I don't own a drill press.

The downside of option 2 is I would need to fill the inserts with something to keep wood filler out while I'm inserting, but that's no big deal.

Am I overlooking other options? How should I proceed?

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    Wood filler will likely crumble even faster than the plastic it's replacing. I'd do as Ecnerwal suggests in his answer. – brhans Aug 1 '16 at 1:39
  • How far across is the wood member that the caster sleeve goes up into? If that part is a good 1.125" or more thick you may be able to bore out the holes to a nice 3/4" size with a forstner bit and then install a 3/4" expanding stem caster such as these: shop.servicecaster.com/expanding-stem-caster-p/…. These will raise the chair a bit due to the larger wheel size but that could be accommodated via the chair height adjustment. – Michael Karas Aug 1 '16 at 11:59
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Best option - drill hole out to 3/4", cover a 3/4" wooden dowel with wood glue, stuff it in the hole, wait for glue to dry, cut it off flush, drill new hole.

Wood filler is not a quality repair you should expect to last.

You might have enough room to drill your small hole beyond the current hole.

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    Or get casters made to fit that hole. – keshlam Aug 1 '16 at 2:23
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For sure wood filler isn't going to work... if the previous suggestion (which is quite good) won't work for you, for whatever reason, perhaps something like Bondo would. You could put the new caster stems into small baggies, or finges cut from rubber gloves to seal them off from the epoxy. I've done this in very similar situations and it works fine to prevent the epoxy from getting into the new parts.

Having said that, the idea of gluing dowels into the holes and re-drilling is the classic solution.

  • +1 for the "Bondo" suggestion. Use a 2-part polyester resin wood filler, very similar to auto-body filler but a bit slower setting, and strong. It will be much easier to drill into for the new inserts, using a dowel always ends up with the drill bit drifting towards the dowel plug/original wood seam. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 1 '16 at 4:33
  • One issue with just trying to refit the shown metal caster retainer using the bondo molding idea is that the upper part of the retainer needs to be able to flex to allow the caster to insert. If the bondo is formed against the upper taper it may be difficult to insert the caster. To alleviate this wind some layers of tape around the tapered section before placing the retainer into the glove fingers. – Michael Karas Aug 1 '16 at 11:36
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I ended up just finding bases that fit the holes despite the fact that nobody seems to make them larger than 3/8" in anything other than plastic. I decided I'd rather replace plastic bases every few years than go with the other options. The wooden dowel repair is a good solution -- if you have a drill press and can drill four identically plumb holes. I don't, and the odds of me producing four perfectly plumb holes with a hand drill are slim to none. And if any of those holes are even a little bit out of plumb, the chair will sit unevenly.

Bondo might work, but Michael Karas made a good point in his comment to PaulBinCT2. Those bases work by expanding at the ends when you insert the caster, and making sure they'll still expand and hold tightly in bondo was going to be dodgy.

I've upvoted the other answers for the valuable guidance. The wood filler probably was a terrible idea.

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