Wooden Chair Repair

In my basement is a chair that was originally part of a dining set my wife inherited from her grandparents.  The dining set is nothing to write home about — the table is the sort of mid-century laminate crap sold that Sears probably sold in bulk and which everybody of a certain age has hiding in their basement.

Ironically, while the table was basically an MDF core with a laminate top, the chairs were solid of honest-to-goodness wood.  The chair in question today is obviously not in our dining room, but in the basement — like I already said — and I use it when I fold laundry.  Fun fact: in addition to building things out of wood, and making things out of leather,  and being an attorney in my day job, I also do the dishes at my house, and fold the laundry.  To be fair, my wife does the lion’s share of the cooking, and that’s the way we’ve divided our labor.

But I digress.

Despite the chair being better built than the table, it’s old, exposed in general to the damp — we live in an old house and while I keep the chair out of water, and keep dehumidifiers going, damp finds a way.  Which means one of the glue joints on the seat failed. 

Naturally, when I disassembled the chair to glue the seat back together, one of the legs de-laminated, coming apart vertically right up the middle at the glue joint.  Then, another glue joint in the seat failed.  Though a bit annoying to have a repair job actually seem to cause more damage — in a sense — it was perfect timing for things to come apart, that way I could fix it all.

You could call what I did a half-repair/half-restoration.  Which means I only did what was necessary to put it back together, and refinish the most important part — the seat. 
I started by pulling the chair completely apart, labeling the pieces as I did so it’d go back together the way it was meant to.  Next, I cleaned the glue joints, and sanded the finish off the seat — the finish had basically failed anyway, so this had to be done and really didn’t take much time. 
After that, I glued the seat back together, pre-applied finish, glued the leg back together, and reassembled the chair — all with Titebond III, for moisture resistance.  One note about refinishing the seat is that, because the old finish was tinted, when I sanded it away I found a blonde wood underneath, and thought it looked better, so kept it.
Either way, the chair is now as solid as it was new, and if I’m luck might last several more decades before needing further attention.  Which is a satisfying thing to say, even for a piece of furniture that is only every used in the basement for folding laundry,

Chair Build 1.5

20210716_113826So, last year I built a chair.  You probably remember it – the chair I didn’t actually need and built on a whim just to give me some experience at building a chair.  As if I was magically going to switch careers and go into chair-making and needed the experience.

Anyway, I built that chair from a little more than one standard length 2×4 and a small piece of a plywood sheet.  When I built it last year this was actually a pretty cheap build for an experiment.  And, while the pine in a 2×4 is generally pretty lousy, it is fairly strong.  That said, if you’ve seen the cost of dimensional lumber lately, you know it would have cost a pretty penny if I went down the rabbit hole this year.

Continue reading “Chair Build 1.5”

Chair Experiment v. 1.0

Look, there’s no good reason for me to make a chair — they aren’t that expensive to buy, so why spend the time?  But then again, most things woodworkers make can be bought cheaply, which also usually means you get something cheap.


What is the purpose of making a chair?  It could be that our own dining room set is incomplete, because one of the children broke the lower supports off the chair hears ago, at a time when I didn’t realize it would be fine just to fix it.  But again, our chairs are basically off-the-rack, and nothing special, so they could all be replaced fairly easily, without must trouble.  And if not replace it exactly, could come pretty close, and it wouldn’t cost too much.

But, when you like working with wood, you don’t necessarily think of things in terms of cost.  You usually think about the fun of making something, and the challenge of it.  Plus, you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Which is all why I decided to make a chair — not so much because I needed to, but because the challenge of it made it so I had to.

The chair you see in the photo is my literal first attempt.  As such, I tried to keep it simple, with everything being a rectangle, and without curves.  More difficult features will come in version 2.0.  And since this was a first attempt, I made the thing out of pine.  That way, if it was a disaster the only thing I’d done was ruin two 2×4’s and a small bit of plywood.  Not a hundred dollars of oak or ash.  The only real flourishes were the seat is upholstered, and the back has no curve.

Ultimately, this chair was an experiment and a learning experience.  And I think I learned a lot.  Enough that version two of this chair will probably still be upholstered — I like the look of that — and will also have a curved back, probably made with bent lamination.  As before, the prototype will be made with pine, and if I like this one, then we might move on to making a set out of ash.  Let’s just hope I have enough wood for that.