The universe smiled on my DIY last week. It started in the usual way. I sat down for coffee and googled my latest idea. Thanksgiving designated me the preparer of family dinner, so I thought it was time to fix my wobbly dining room chairs.
Google was quick with the answer. The first video wasn’t quite right, the chair was too modern in construction. Video number two was perfect. There was a chair, exactly like my 1940’s chairs, except a different colour.
A few years previously, I’d recovered the seat cushions and thought a bit of screw tightening might firm up the chairs. No. The chairs weren’t about to collapse, they were just creaky and rocked slightly. Normal chairs don’t do this.
The 20 minute video from the “Fixing Furniture Channel“1 explained it all. It’s the gluing together of all the chair parts that provide the stability, even though the screws hold things together. As time goes by, the glue gets old and dries to dust. Old chairs will have been re-glued several times to maintain their integrity. The cool part that this is so possible.
I would never have guessed it was so easy to disassemble a wooden dining room chair into its components and then put it back together. And apparently it worked. Family dinner happened and the chairs held up even after I told my clan how I’d redone the chairs and they rock and rolled to test their seats.2
The Fixing Furniture Channel should get all the credit. They hit all the key points, in just the right way to make sense to me and give me the confidence to wack the crap out of my chairs so they could be put back together, better. These were the keys points I learned:
Old glue disintegrates. This causes chair wobble. As I started to take each chair apart, it was clear which joints were unstable, some fell apart right apart once the screws were out. Others I couldn’t get apart with a hammer or a spreader.
The opposite of a clamp (that squeezes parts together) is a spreader (that forces parts apart). For this project, the main expenditure was three 24″ clamps. Fixing Furniture taught me to look for clamps that converted to spreaders (by flipping one end around). 300 ft/lbs of force is enough to pull any wobbly joint apart. If the joint withstands that force, its stable. Unless…
Some of the dowel and hole joints in my chairs are angled. I’m in awe of the geometry/carpentry that went into this, but it also made them resistant to spreading. However, pounding on the chair legs (with a rubber mallet) wiggled the joint apart admirably.
Prepping the old joints to be new. The key is to remove all old paint and glue. I used a chisel and sandpaper. Removing too much of the mortise or tenon, or dowel and hole would take away the snug fit that holds the chais together, so scraping should be minimized. I’m impatient, so I used 60 grit sandpaper, while the recommendation was 120.
Using lots of glue. Fixing Furniture said the right amount was enough to ooze out when clamped, which makes sense. It’s easy enough to clean up the excess by dry wiping, followed by a damp cloth, so why not make sure the joints have sufficient glue to last the next 20 years.
Clamping the joints together firmly is important.
Make sure the chair sits on a level surface as the glue dries, otherwise you end up with a slanted chair. This is logical.
Protect the finished wood of the chair, by setting it down on non-abrasive surfaces when working with the parts. This is an especially good idea before you start to hammer, scrape or wiggle the parts against the surface they are resting on.
Very pleased with the outcome, which looks exactly like the before picture. It’s just much quieter.
Feeling indebted to The Fixing Furniture channel. A bit sad because their marketing is so awesome it did them out of my business. But, the point is that I’m putting out there that they are very knowledgable and competent, which is the point to posting ‘how to’ on YouTube.
Tempted to get on a soapbox and preach about how great fixable goods are. But counting my blessings instead, hoping the universe smiles on my next DIY project too.
2 I wasn’t going to post this post until the job had been tried in the field 😜.