Chair repair

Two nights ago I finished the second round of stain stripping (this time with a toothbrush!) and began the tedious job of repair on the 100-year-old-chairs. You see, not only was the finish worn, the wood gouged, cracked, and chipped, but of course the normal wear-and-tear had also taken its expected toll on their joints. These are some loosey-goosey wobbly chairs, man – I think in a previous post I described them as “drunkards.” I’ve never put my full weight on them because it makes me too nervous.

So after doing some research on antique furniture repair forums I took them all down to the basement, chose one of the ones in not-too-bad-shape, and began pulling it apart. Every single joint that’s the least bit loose has to be pried apart, the holes reamed out, the old glue scraped off the dowels, cracked dowels drilled out and replaced, any cracks glued & clamped, and only then can the aesthetic part of sanding and filling begin. It took me two evenings and I used every single one of these tools:

The most difficult part was actually getting it apart to begin with. After that the sanding took forever but was fairly easy, and the minor filling of gouges was pretty satisfying.

The joints on this chair were actually in pretty decent shape. They were wobbly and loose, of course, but that was just loose glue because the dowels themselves were still strong and tight – only one was broken and needed to be replaced – and I didn’t find any structural cracks, only one aesthetic one that was easily clamped and repaired. With all the parts labeled as to leg number proximity and orientation (crucial!) I was able to sand of most of the stubbornly remaining shadow of dark stain. The oak plugs I found fit perfectly too, which was a relief.

I tried to glue and re-assemble the whole chair at once because I was nervous about getting the angles right, but it took far too long and I nearly got stuck with some half-glued-together joints. I also only have three bar clamps – dunno why that only occurred to me once it was too late! I had to quick jerry-rig another bar clamp with two shorter clamps pulling against each other across a board in the center (as you can see above). It seemed to work just fine.

But I will definitely be gluing and clamping the next chair together one side at a time!

One thing was interesting – I was surprised to discover that the chair parts had been stained even where a joint had hidden the wood surface, meaning the chairs were stained before they were assembled. That makes me wonder if they were mass-produced… or if it’s simply more expedient to stain a chair that way. It does kinda make sense. Anyone know?

In any case, everything seems to have worked out fine. The chair is now just as sturdy and jiggle-free as I could wish. Nothing’s ever perfect, however, especially not on the first try – now there’s a slight tip, as though one leg is shorter than the others. It’s probably because of the wonky gluing, and it’s so slight that simply adding a felt caster to one side will be sure to fix it, but still… Well, next time I’ll do better.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

:mrgreen: :neutral: :twisted: :shock: :smile: :???: :cool: :evil: :grin: :oops: :razz: :roll: :wink: :cry: :eek: :lol: :mad: :sad: