I broke a hardwood patio umbrella rib. The ribs are made out of 1" x 1/2" x 5'6" hardwood. I don't think that I can buy this dimension.

To fix this, I thought that I might buy a 1" hardwood dowel and flatten the three areas where that rib connects to the umbrella with a brass fitting.

I want to flatten the dowel equally on both sides so that I am left with the flat area being in the center of the dowel. All the flattened areas should be in the same orientation.

I don't have a planer, and and ideally would do this with hand tools.

broken umbrella rib 1" x 1/2" x 5'6" inside of the umbrella

  • Forgive but I am not familiar with what a stay is. Do you by chance have a picture (stock if you have to). How precise does this have to be? How far are the cuts (how much needs to be removed)? Could you just go at this with a sander?
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:33
  • I do have photos on my phone, but they are too big to upload. I'll add them later.
    – DavidC
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:36
  • 2
    Do you have a source for dowels that are five and a half feet long? Do you have access to a table saw? If so, cut rectangular ribs and forget the dowels. A lot less expensive.
    – Ast Pace
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 18:06
  • 2
    How is the old rib broken? It might be repairable...
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 18:09
  • 1
    you only need to flatten the areas where the hardware attaches, so personally I'd suggest just getting a file and giving it an equal number of strokes on each side until that fits.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 5:32

3 Answers 3


Belt Sander

This seems like an obvious choice. It might not make perfect corners on the new dowel but I can't imagine people will be looking up at where this meets. Very easy to remove stock quickly and if you orient the dowel right you should be able to get nice flat surfaces. Other power sanders could work for this as well just maybe not an orbital one as easily.


This would be a cleaner and more precise option. If you were leaning towards hand tools this would be a good candidate. Clamp the dowel between two pieces of sacrificial wood. Better yet would be to take a block (or two) and cut a inch hole in it. Then the dowel will rest in that block with only the dowel to be remove exposed. Plane until just before the "block". A small block plane would work nice for this.

enter image description here

You don't mention how much need to be cut but if the ends don't need to be cut to far you might end up making the ends more tapered. That could work to your advantage giving a tighter fit.


I had though about chisels but was worried that they might try and walk along the grain and ruin the edges.


You might even be able to get away with a card scarper as well but I would not put this in front of the other options.

Update from pictures

Like the other I think that the original rib could still work in place. You should just be able to glue it back together with some clamps. The one thing I would do to try and reinforce it would be to drill a couple of holes across the break and fill each hole with a similar sized dowel. Glue those in there and I doubt it will break there again. I could not find a great picture put in concept this is have I meant

Tenon peg

Just like the peg holds the tenon in the picture above a couple of small dowels can help hold your glue joint and give it some strength.

This is of course assuming the ends of the rib were not damaged as well.

  • +1 for the plane option. I was going to post that but you beat me to it! I'd probably use a smoothing plane since I feel like I get better control with it as compared to a block plane, but to each his own.
    – grfrazee
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 19:16
  • I think maybe the break isn't as clean as it looks ... if that's the case, something like a splint made from six inch strips of plywood on either side of the break would work.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 4:10
  • I bought a cheap router table at a yard sale this weekend. I am thinking that I will use this. For a guide block, I tack a straight 2x2 to one side of the dowel maybe with short screws. I route 1/4" off other side of the dowel along the router table fence, attach the same 2x2 to the now flat side of the dowel and route 1/4" off of the opposite side. Doing this has the advantage of making the whole dowel flat so that it looks more like the original. Not part of the question, but I then attach this to the center pole using metal strip helper and connect the rib to the original fittings.
    – DavidC
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 18:05

Forget squaring round dowels. If you want one side round for looks, it's much easier to round a square than vise-versa.

  1. Go to any lumber yard or big box store and find a 1" x 4" x 6' (or 1" x 6" x 6', etc.) standard board. Standard is the name of a type of board. It is usually harder than similar common boards. Some people will say you need a cedar board, but your umbrella will probably be faded or caught in a windstorm before any significant rot happens.

  2. Ask an employee to cut you 1" wide strip. Be prepared to pay a minor cutting surcharge. You now have a 1" x 1/2" x 6' squared board!

  3. To cut to your 5'-6" length, go the aisle where they cut trim to length and make a quick cut. Or buy a $5 hacksaw. Or use a steak knife for such a small piece.

  4. Sand to your desired roundness on one side.

Your real troubles are going to be attaching your new rib to the center part.

  • I didn't think that they would rip things. I'll check. Maybe they do.
    – DavidC
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 19:53
  • @DavidC I see in your comments that you mention Home Depot. Most Home Depots I've been in have both a saw to cut across boards and a saw in a long table that they can cut down the length of boards with. Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 19:58
  • Okay great! I've only ever had them cut boards to a length. I know that they wont do angle cuts, so I never thought to ask them to rip something.
    – DavidC
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 20:01
  • First off, yes it is much easier to make something square, round vs making something round, square. That said, I couldn't find any big box store that would rip something for me. Even the lumber stores would not. I didn't check at the lumber yard.
    – DavidC
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 17:55
  • @DavidC Ok, I just looked up "your city woodworking" and called the first result. They said no problem doing such a small job, but they usually have like a $20 minimum. He was going to ask the boss to cut me a deal, but I thanked him and hung up. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 18:08

I was going to suggest using a block with a hole drilled through it, but without a drill press this would be difficult to make.

Instead I would suggest a hand saw, some clamps, and a guide block. The block should be positioned so that the bottom of the blade aligns with the start of the flat bit.

Wrap the dowel with masking tape with the edge marking the length of the flat portion. This will serve as a stopping line for your cut, and prevent tearing the wood when you make the second cut. Clamp the dowel and your guide block, then use a hand saw held flush to the guide to cut down the length of the dowel. Now cut down to the line with the blade aligned with the tape. Repeat the process on the other side of the dowel.

  • I would use a bandsaw for this if I had access to such tools.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 18:06

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