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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Default Chair Repair

A neighbor likes to buy old furniture and refinish them and had one chair that needed some repair. Under the heading of wanting to learn something new I gave it a try.

The Chair was missing a strethcher and after getting it on the bench realized it was also missing a cross member between the the left and right side stretchers. New to me was dowel joinery as all of the joints used dowels. What was odd to me is that none of the dowels were glued which didn't make sense. The arms were bolted on at the seat frame and the seat frame had 45 degree corner blocks that were screwed to the frame. The corner blocks provide a somewhat stiff support for the dowel connections.

Pic #1 shows the original stretcher with the dowel exposed

Pic #2 shows the seats frame where a corner block was removed... shows the arm joined with a bolt and the frame and legs that are joined by dowels.

Pic #3 Is the new style and cross member attached before getting joints closed up and then reinforced by reattaching the corner blocks.

Pic #4 Is the chair repaired and ready to be refinished. It was hard not to take it all apart and glue all of the doweled joints together but I figured there was a reason that they were not glued when built?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 06:56 PM
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Good job, Jim.

This is the sort of woodworking that helps to develop our skills.

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I don't profess to know everything, and I may learn something new.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 08:06 PM
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Jim I can understand that they have done that to allow movement without it breaking a joint apart but from my experience it can move at all it will get worse over time. I made a glider rocker for my wife 10-15 years ago and the plan called for using screws for much of the joinery. I didn't like that idea much and had just purchased a morticing attachment for my drill press and went that way with glued joints. We haven't had a problem with it and that includes it holding my generous proportions at times. If I had made that chair you rebuilt, I would have glued it but that is only my opinion. Others with chair experience may say different.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 08:18 PM
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Very strange construction in my experience. You have done a very nice job of repair but I would have opted for glue. Chairs can't be too strong IMHO.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 08:21 PM
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Some companies that manufacture inexpensive furniture often try to do the least that they can to enable them to produce the largest possible number of "units" in a period of time. Glue joints, while quite strong; can lead to finish acceptance problems. When glue is used on dowel joints, some of it will run back out most of the time. This means that in a timely manner someone has to remove all traces of glue where a finish will be applied. When I've repaired stuff like this, I will often use species and color-matched dowels of a smaller diameter and drill perpendicular holes through the main dowel - this provides a "pinned dowel connection". One of the things I make a lot of is Abaci (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Slavonic & Classroom styles). ALL OF MY ABACI include pinned dowel joinery.
And yes - it works on chairs quite well. Go ahead and use high-quality thick glue and aggressively remove glue run-out for a very nice finish. I always use TiteBond glue.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-07-2012, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the input as this is new to me and with your thoughts. comments, and expierience I continue to learn something new. I didn't know the reason why the maufacturer didn't glue the dowels and guessed (wrong) that there needed to be a little play in the joint. Loose dowel joints provide give when pressure is applied and a nice squeek.

I did learn about the dowel squeeze out as I did glue the dowel into the ends of the new stretcher and cross member but not where they joined another piece. And yes you will spend a good amount of time cleaning them up. I didn't research the correct names but guess that the new pieces made are called Stretcher for the side connecting the 2 legs nearer the bottom and that the piece connecting the 2 stretchers is called a crossmember?

The "Pinned Dowel Connection" sounds very interesting and gives me some ideas on future projects. I looked up ABACI. The only thing I could find close was Abacus -"The uppermost member of the capital of a column; often a plain square slab, but sometimes molded or otherwise enriched." ?

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Last edited by Marco; 10-07-2012 at 09:52 PM. Reason: update
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 06:14 AM
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The big mass-production furniture makers seem to be very stingy with the glue sometimes. Probably both to save on glue, and as Otis mentioned to minimise the amount of squeeze-out. They don't always put enough on to properly wet both pieces of wood, and after a while the joint just comes apart. That might be another explanation for the apparent lack of glue.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco View Post
A neighbor likes to buy old furniture and refinish them and had one chair that needed some repair. Under the heading of wanting to learn something new I gave it a try.

The Chair was missing a strethcher and after getting it on the bench realized it was also missing a cross member between the the left and right side stretchers. New to me was dowel joinery as all of the joints used dowels. What was odd to me is that none of the dowels were glued which didn't make sense. The arms were bolted on at the seat frame and the seat frame had 45 degree corner blocks that were screwed to the frame. The corner blocks provide a somewhat stiff support for the dowel connections.

Pic #1 shows the original stretcher with the dowel exposed

Pic #2 shows the seats frame where a corner block was removed... shows the arm joined with a bolt and the frame and legs that are joined by dowels.

Pic #3 Is the new style and cross member attached before getting joints closed up and then reinforced by reattaching the corner blocks.

Pic #4 Is the chair repaired and ready to be refinished. It was hard not to take it all apart and glue all of the doweled joints together but I figured there was a reason that they were not glued when built?
Marco after working on making thousands of chairs then I promise you that those dowels are supposed to be glued, they were most likely assembled by a person who did not care about doing a good job, less glue means less excess to wash off, a properly glued joint will not come apart, if it does then it did not get a proper amount of glue or the manufactured chose to use a cheap glue that was not up to the high stress that chair joints are put under over the lifetime of the chair, if a joint is made properly and is glued with the correct glue then the wood itself should break before the join lets go. NGM
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 12:54 PM
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Jim, in reference to "Abaci"; it is the plural form of Abacus - which in my case is the old-fashioned bead-on-rod calculators that date back many hundreds of years. See my profile photo... and as added bonus, I'll edit and post some photos herein later this afternoon. I am awaiting my wife's arrival from the hospital (a niece is having a baby), so it may be a bit before I can post those. Hopefully, you will be able to see the "pinned dowel connections" that I spoke of. Have a good day!

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-08-2012, 02:21 PM
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I like what you do with the beautiful chair! Good luck.
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