Easy Chair Repair
Most repairs on chairs can be done simply enough right at home. Learn how to repair a chair.
Repairing a chair, whether re-gluing a joint, fixing breaks, leveling a leg or fixing those loose joints, does not have to be a major project. Most repairs can be done simply enough right at home. The strength of any chair depends on the firmness of its joints. In most cases the parts of a chair are joined by mortise and tenon joints or a dowel and socket. When one joint becomes loose it will cause other parts or joints to break or weaken if not repaired. At times the glue in your chair will become brittle or crumble, allowing the joints to wiggle about and enlarge the socket or mortise which holds them in place. When this happens you should first try to re-glue and clamp the part without disassembling the chair. You can do this by pulling the chair apart and clean out the old glue with a stiff wire. Then put fresh wood glue into the socket or mortise and wiggle the joint to work the glue into the wood. Another way of doing this is to drill a small hole behind the mortise or socket and inject glue or push the glue in with a toothpick. After the joint is glued allow it to dry for 24 hours before using the chair.
When the socket has enlarged, the best way to stabilize your chair to is push small pieces of toothpicks or match sticks into the hole after you have applied the glue. Wipe away any excess and then refill any spaces with additional glue. Most hardware stores carry a liquid synthetic product that will swell the fibers of a wobbly joint so they will fit firmly. You can also mix a small amount of sawdust with glue to fill an enlarged socket.
When it is necessary for you to disassemble the joint or remove the reinforcing nails, screws or braces you should tap the joint apart gently with a mallet or hammer that has been padded to protect the finish on your chair. In many cases the screws and brads are hidden by wood filler or plugs. Older chairs can have joints that cannot be taken apart without splitting the wood. When your dowel has become too small for the hole you can wrap it with thread before applying the glue to enlarge it. You can also cut a slit in the dowel and wedge a tiny piece of wood into it so it will enlarge as it is wedged into the socket. If your socket is too small you will need to plug it with a tight fitting dowel and glue then cut it flush with the surrounding wood. Drill a new socket hole and glue the dowel in place. When clamping your chair use non- marring clamps to preserve the finish. It is possible to improvise a web clamp by tightening a rope tourniquet style around the chair. Be sure when doing this to protect the wood with pads.
A broken rung or leg that has broken along the grain can be glued back together. Wrap making tape around it until the glue has dried. If the break is across the grain it will have to be reinforced with dowels if it is a small rung, and metal pins if it is large.
When your chair is wobbling because the legs are different lengths you should set it on an even surface to identify which leg is too short. In this case you can add a glide to the short leg or cut a sliver off the longer legs to solve the problem. If you are working with chairs that have padded seats they will usually have reinforcing corner blocks where the legs and frame meet. When this type of chair is wobbly, remove the legs and reattach them with fresh glue. Add new reinforcing blocks where they are missing to increase the strength of the joints.