Shop Notes #3: Shop Notes #3 Dowel shrinkage in older furniture

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Blog entry by DocSavage45 posted 01-13-2014 12:54 AM 1430 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Shop Notes #2 Screwed Up Again! Part 3 of Shop Notes series Part 4: Finally A GoodDay in the Shop and outside of the shop! How was your day? »

Working on the Sign and waiting for un-spilled paint to dry. LOL Decided to upgrade the finish on some older wooden furniture that I used before to make it a bit nicer for my clients.

Working on a 3 seater wooden sofa that was hidden away in a back room. Upgrade the finish by blending and touching up scratches and use “Danish oil” to give it some sparkle.

Good thing I took it apart. Found some strapping for the cushions that was starting to give way. That would not go well? Finding grooved dowels that appear to be shrunk and have loosened.

I’m wondering what would be the best course to put it back together?

I’ve not done this before. Thinking some sawdust and yellow glue to tighten the hold?

Suggestions welcome. Thanks

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

9 comments so far

View Woodbridge's profile


3548 posts in 2446 days

#1 posted 01-13-2014 01:44 AM

Hi Doc, It may be a bit unorthodox but when I re-glued some chairs for my cousin (corner braces and various dowels) I used PL premium construction adhesive. I’m not really that knowledgeable on furniture restoration but if the dowel holes have dried glue in them I’m not sure how well wood glue will stick.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View DocSavage45's profile


8604 posts in 2870 days

#2 posted 01-13-2014 01:48 AM

Thanks, didn’t think of that and I do buildings a lot…LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3336 days

#3 posted 01-13-2014 04:45 AM

Howsa bout some enlarging the dowel holes to the next available dowel size and using larger dowels.

View DocSavage45's profile


8604 posts in 2870 days

#4 posted 01-13-2014 05:22 AM

The dowels that are in the sofa are grooved. Might have a dowel rod that’s larger, might have to purchase some dowelling? Is that Golem from Lord of the Rings, or did you get a new do?

Thanks Gumbo Guy

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 1755 days

#5 posted 01-13-2014 05:30 AM

Not recommending a fix, I would go with what has been said above, drill new holes and use bigger dowel.
I’m just curious, “Dowel Shrinkage” did the dowel shrink or was the hole enlarged do to wear? What wood is the dowel made of and what wood is the chair? Is the chair softer wood?

View DocSavage45's profile


8604 posts in 2870 days

#6 posted 01-13-2014 05:36 AM

Different woods in the sofa. The dowels were glued at one time as best I can tell. The fit is snug. Can’t tell the species of the dowel, but it is a white wood.


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View PhilBello's profile


411 posts in 1995 days

#7 posted 01-13-2014 12:04 PM

Hi Thomas, this is the trouble, or maybe benefit of living in another part of the world, you wake up after everyone has solved the problem! :-)
I agree with different parts of each bit of advice given. If it is a decent piece of furniture, and especially if it is for someone else other than yourself, I would stick to wood glue, it was made with a purpose.I would also try to drill out the dowel holes with the same size bit, just to remove any glue residue, rather than making a bigger hole, and use new dowels for added strength,if they are out of sight and colour matching is not an issue.
If using a different dowel is going to be an issue on colour matching, you can get around this by filling the existing dowel hole with a snug fitting new dowel, then whilst waiting for the glue to dry, in a piece of scrap wood find a bit that allows a snug fit for the old dowel, then drill into the new dowel, and refit the old one!

-- If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain - Steven Wright

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2868 days

#8 posted 01-13-2014 01:05 PM

Doc chances are the dowels are maple. If it is unseen I would use a putty epoxy. It won’t run out of cracks and get into or on things you don’t want it to. I would totally refill the holes, recenter and dowel again.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View DocSavage45's profile


8604 posts in 2870 days

#9 posted 01-13-2014 04:37 PM

Phil. Dave, Greg, Woodbridge,

Thanks different perspectives and help! It’s for my office, it’s under the cushions. I’ll have to look into the epoxy putty for future visible problems.

Have to see what my local Ace/FleetFarm has to get the thing in my office. I have some clients coming! Yipee Skipee!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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