Fixing a Wobbly Chair W/ Luke

Our first Repairworks video is live! We can’t run our regular workshops and repair cafes at the moment, but we also can’t resist trying to teach and engage with our community about what we do.

In this video Luke walks you through how to repair a wobbly chair by taking it apart and gluing it back together.

Chairs are often the item we see most in the woodworks repair shop. They get used anabused more than any other piece of furniture in our homes, and over time the joints begin to loosen and the whole piece can become unstable. We have seen many attempts to fix this with screws and brackets, but they often fail, and when they do it can cause more problems than the original break.

What we do instead is open up the joints (often taking the chair apart) clean them up, and glue them back together in the way the chair was originally made. This proves a more lasting repair that can be fixed again and again.

For more details on how, watch the clip and check out our step by step guide below:

STEP 1: Identify the loose joints and begin disassembly

There is no need to take any joints apart that are still working fine, so it is best to figure out which joints are loose and how you can open them up safely without causing more problems. With the chair Luke fixes in the video, the only joints that need to fixed are the ones connecting the sides of the chair to the middle pieces. So as he proceeds through the repair, he takes apart what is necessary, but leaves those side frames intact.

You may need to undo other joints to get at the ones you want. On this chair for instance, Luke has to take the top rail off of the chair in order to get the two sides apart. It’s important to look for what needs to be done first in order to get everything apart safely.

Luke uses a rubber mallet to knock the pieces apart, and in a trickier area he uses a pry bar and a paint scraper. There are all sorts of tools that you can do to try to open the joints, so get creative. The most important thing is that you don’t want to cause more damage. Using a rubber mallet, for instance, won’t dent the timber like a metal one would.

STEP 2. Clean up the joints

Once everything is open and apart, you want to remove any old glue that is on there to give the new glue the best chance. Using a scraping tool or a sharp chisel is the best way to remove all old glue without removing any of the timber. Sandpaper can be indiscrete and you can end up making joint pieces too small be accidentally removing timber as well as glue.

STEP 3. Dry Fit

You don’t see this in the video, but it is important to always do a dry fit to make sure your joints go together well. The glue won’t work if there are any gaps in the final result. So make sure that your pieces go back together cleanly during a dry fit.

If something doesn’t go back together tight, take the time to find out why, and maybe remove any obstacles of a clean glue up. Don’t think that adding more glue will solve the problem, it will only cause you more stress later down the line.

STEP 4. Glue Up

Get everything ready before gluing. Once you start putting glue on things it can be quite a wild ride from there, so make sure you have all your clamps and pieces ready to go and at arm’s length before you put any glue on anything.

In terms of what glue to use, Luke has used white PVA in this video, which is a very strong choice. There are some other glues you might consider such as hide glue or epoxy. We are working on another video about how to make these decisions. Hide glue is my personal favourite because it is both strong and reversible.

If you can, glue each joint one at a time. Avoid having glue on too many surfaces when you are trying to put things together. Make sure you have enough glue to cover the surface of both pieces, but not too much. It becomes really hard to get two pieces of wood together if there is too much glue in the way.

Clamp the joints tight, and let them sit overnight just to be sure. Use blocks and pads between the clamps and timber in order to ensure you don’t dent or damage the chair. We are putting together another video on clamps and things you can use at home as clamps if you don’t have nice ones like the one’s Luke uses in the video.

STEP 5. Clean up and Wait

Once everything is together, use a damp cloth or sponge to remove any glue that has oozed out from the joints. Then wait until the next day to take all the clamps off and enjoy using your chair again!

I hope you enjoyed this little how to. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out. We want to ensure we help people with the problems they actually have, so if a lot of people have the same question, it will be good for us to address it.

Stay safe out there! Happy woodworking!

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