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Thread: fixing wiggly chairs

  1. #1
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    Default fixing wiggly chairs

    I have a friend whose garage is filling up with wood Windsor-ish dining chairs with loose legs, rungs, etc. They are by no means fine furniture but he would like them to look nice when he's done. The last time I tried to deal with this (20 years ago) I tried a number of things, none of which were particularly successful:

    Glue that swells the wood (it didn't)
    Toothed metal inserts that hold a tenon in a hole (they didn't)
    Converting a plain tenon into a wedged tenon (hard to do if they aren't through-tenons)
    Countersinking a short screw and living with the uglies (effective, at least)
    Firing in a bunch of pin nails (temporarily effective, and visually unobtrusive)

    Gorilla glue and its friends have been invented since then; would it be any better than carpenter's glue? I know to moisten everything before using it.

    I don't think he's going to be excited about the idea of totally dismantling the chairs to start over.

    What's the current state of the art in chair repair?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Lee Vally (Veritas) can probably help you with Chair Doctor. (It swells the joints.)
    http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/pag...=1,110&p=30261 from the US site under Adhesives.
    Check that they can ship it my surface mail.
    basil

  3. #3
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    The usual problem is the glue residue from the original assembly. That yellow wood glue is great stuff, but once hardened there's not much of anything that will stick to it, including itself. Doing a complete disassembly and cleaning all the joints, and then refitting all the parts, is a major time consumer. I used to repair furniture, but next to boat building, it's one of the quickest ways to go broke.

  4. #4

    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    If they're so loose they're falling apart, re-glue with titebond.

    If they aren't that far gone use this stuff:

    http://www.zapglue.com/CA.html

    I can't recommend this stuff highly enough. It's magic chair glue.

    You clamp the joint(s), or use a bunch of cord to cinch everything tight, then squirt the Zap into the joints. It draws it's self right into the crack of the joint, hardens in minutes and stiffens up a chair like nobody's business. Just be ready to wipe off any excess immediately, otherwise the chair leg will be permanently affixed to your workbench in a matter of seconds. Also wear gloves, or just be careful and don't glue your fingers together.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by goodbasil View Post
    Lee Vally (Veritas) can probably help you with Chair Doctor. (It swells the joints.)
    http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/pag...=1,110&p=30261 from the US site under Adhesives.
    Check that they can ship it my surface mail.
    +1 on the "Chair Doctor" from Lee Valley.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    None of the above.
    The best, and really only proper way to do this fix right is to: Take the chair apart. Drill out the holes the next size up, and plug them with a properly fit face grain plug. Re-drill the hole using a drill 1 or 2 numeric size smaller drill bits, and carefully, using a file or rasp, clean up the ends of the rungs/legs/etc. Then re-glue the whole schmear with proper hide glue (Or aliphatic resin glue if you must.).
    If the chairs aren't worth the effort, they'll make fine kindling.
    For someone with a little time, and the desire to do something well it's actually a kind of fun job. As long as they're not expecting to get paid for it. I fixed a pile of broken bar stools for a place in Providence when I was at RISD this way. If I'd been paid for the job, I'd be a part owner now. But I was working for beers.....
    Never trust a man with a clean workshop.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    I hope you got a $hit load of beer for that job! An not some of that " Our own New England Beer" swill.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    It was swill. But the company was good...
    Never trust a man with a clean workshop.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrleft8 View Post
    None of the above.
    The best, and really only proper way to do this fix right is to: Take the chair apart. Drill out the holes the next size up, and plug them with a properly fit face grain plug. Re-drill the hole using a drill 1 or 2 numeric size smaller drill bits, and carefully, using a file or rasp, clean up the ends of the rungs/legs/etc. Then re-glue the whole schmear with proper hide glue (Or aliphatic resin glue if you must.).
    If the chairs aren't worth the effort, they'll make fine kindling.
    For someone with a little time, and the desire to do something well it's actually a kind of fun job. As long as they're not expecting to get paid for it. I fixed a pile of broken bar stools for a place in Providence when I was at RISD this way. If I'd been paid for the job, I'd be a part owner now. But I was working for beers.....
    Thanks Lefty, I was weeping,

    I use a tiny sanding drum on my dremmle to get the old glue out of the holes. No real need to drill out and plug if the old dowels still tight.
    Knock apart, clean joints (and strip old varnish off if your doing to re finish them.
    Glue up and clamp. You can use white wood glue, but make sure all the bits fit properly before you glue up.
    Mark each peice with roman numerals with a small chisel as you take it apart.

    It only takes about an hour per chair (without the refinish) if you're organised.
    Last edited by Meli; 11-01-2011 at 09:36 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    I find that the best clamp is a spanish windlass

  11. #11
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    They're OK if your only doing the stretchers but a bit fiddly for a whole chair, your glue can start going off before you get it all together.
    And they're not good on convex pieces.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    It's tough to do a good job if you don't know the ropes. Furniture gluing or regluing is trickym enough that Fine Woodworking magazine sells a tape/DVD of the procedure. I don't know the exacttitle but it's about furniture repair and the expert is Flexner
    To do a good repair;
    It depends on what glue is holding the chair together.
    It depends on the type of chair construction.
    it depends on what you consider an adequate repair.
    The easest chairs to fix are those made before WWII that are held together with hot hide glue. Even if the original hide glue is 200 years old an injection of modern hide glue will desolve the old stuff and give you a tite joint.
    Any modern glue except epoxy needs to be cleaned off before regluing. Some modern glues will not glue to themselves so the safest way is to clean it off and start from scratch.
    On many chairs the only way to get at the faulty joint is to disassemble some or all of the chair.
    Last edited by Cuyahoga Chuck; 11-01-2011 at 09:50 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Lefty and Chuck have pretty much explained it. If you want to repair the chair every couple of years, there are lots of ways. If you want to repair it once and use it for another century, take it apart and do it right. If some of the victims have already been mutilated with nails or screws, start with those, learn how, and move on to those that can be restored.
    Await dreams, loves, life; | There is always tomorrow. | Until there is not.

    Grieving love unsaid. | Tomorrow will fail someday. | Tell them today, OK?

  14. #14

    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by katey View Post
    I have a friend whose garage is filling up with wood Windsor-ish dining chairs with loose legs, rungs, etc. They are by no means fine furniture...

    [...]

    I don't think he's going to be excited about the idea of totally dismantling the chairs to start over.

    What's the current state of the art in chair repair?
    I get the impression some of you missed the point of the question in the OP...

  15. #15
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    I suppose it depends on the type of chair. If they were made post 1970 ish, they probably were'nt made to be repaired.
    If on the other hand, they were made with decent dowel joints or mortice and tenon,, then they are probably worth the effort to fix em properly.
    I really hate it when a client brings me an honest old chair that someone has tried to fix with screws or unsuitable glues. or nails.

  16. #16

    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Didn't you say your restoration services run about $250 bucks per chair? I don't know of too many post 1870 ish chairs that are worth $250 bucks...

  17. #17
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    They aren't "worth" $250 If you mean resale value.
    But to buy a new chair of the same quality would cost you more.
    Some people just like their old chairs and are happy to pay

  18. #18
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by JTLogan View Post
    The usual problem is the glue residue from the original assembly. That yellow wood glue is great stuff, but once hardened there's not much of anything that will stick to it, including itself. Doing a complete disassembly and cleaning all the joints, and then refitting all the parts, is a major time consumer. I used to repair furniture, but next to boat building, it's one of the quickest ways to go broke.
    The quickest way to go broke is to repair an antique staircase, replicating railings, balustrades and newell posts with a mezzanine landing to boot while the property was subject to acrimonious divorce proceedings.

    Ask me!
    Last edited by purri; 11-03-2011 at 12:07 AM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by purri View Post
    The quickest way to go broke is to repair an antique staircase, replicating railings, balustrades and newell posts with a mezzanine landing to boot while the property was subject to acrimonious divorce proceedings.

    Ask me!
    I disassembled and reassembled a red cedar staircase in Balmain once, flipped all the treads and wedged it to tighten everything up.
    Once was enough. I worked for 4 days on that thing without getting paid for it as I knew the owner would hit the roof over the cost.
    it looked good when I finished it though.
    "I'm not gonna spend any time looking up stuff."
    "If you want specifics you'll have to look them up."
    "To answer your particular question would require much more time than I am willing to commit at the moment..."
    I refer you to the reply given in the matter of Arkell v. Pressdram.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Meli View Post
    I suppose it depends on the type of chair. If they were made post 1970 ish, they probably were'nt made to be repaired.
    If on the other hand, they were made with decent dowel joints or mortice and tenon,, then they are probably worth the effort to fix em properly.
    I really hate it when a client brings me an honest old chair that someone has tried to fix with screws or unsuitable glues. or nails.
    I cringe at some of the 'repairs' done before people call me.. One family had tried to 'glue' a cracked table leg with dry-wall compound.. excuse?, it's all they had.. ;-) fortunately, that cleans up fairly easily.. tho the screw holes for the metal patch were a bit harder to deal with. However, they were, as many are, happy with a serviceable table whose wounds were not apparent to other than a close inspection. Glue, a hidden dowel & a bit of stain.. serviceable as new.. & unnoticeable by any but the inquisitive.. "if anyone looks too close", I said, "kick em".. ;-)

    Putty & Paint, Make It What It Ain't.. except for support mechanisms.. ;-)

    enjoy
    bobby

  21. #21
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Or that "No more nails" stuff" I once spent 2 hours picking it out of the splintery bits of a once clean break with a nail file
    Or nails banged through tenons and punched in

  22. #22
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Meli View Post
    Or that "No more nails" stuff" I once spent 2 hours picking it out of the splintery bits of a once clean break with a nail file
    ....
    Some folks like it
    Complicated problems usually have simple solutions - which are almost always wrong.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: fixing wiggly chairs

    ROFLMAO

    I've seen it before, still makes me laugh

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