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Adventures in Furniture Repairing #1: Multiple office side chairs with inherent design flaws

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Blog entry by Lee Barker posted 12-15-2010 02:54 AM 1128 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Adventures in Furniture Repairing series Part 2: Finished: Epoxied joints cleaned up, new rail installed, delivered! »

It is unclear at this writing how many of these I will host, but there is a pile of them at the office, all out of commission. They were built by an unknown local cabinet shop. Almost all of them failed at the mortise and tenon joint at the front rail which supports the seat. The upholstery is in great shape, so the head guy at that office decided they were worth saving.

The inherent design flaw is just that—there’s only that rail, no stretchers below. Nothing in the back failed, where there are three horizontal members.

Not much good can be said about the fit of the tenons in the mortise. But worse than that, the cabinet builder (who was definitely not a furniture maker) put nails in every joint. So part of the repair is figuring out how to get the dang things apart in the first place.

Having done four, I have landed on this procedure: drive the pin nails in as far as I can with a fine nail set, then use a spreading clamp to push the joints apart. The nails may come out in the tenon with the mortise intact. Where there is already a split along the grain line between the nails, I have taken to cutting that piece out and gluing it back in after the tenon is out.

I used name brand epoxy (not drug store variety) and wanted to load it with some walnut sawdust for color. I stumbled on an efficient way to get it. I put an 80x disk on my ROS and held it half on the walnut. The cuttings from the abrasive just fell off the disk and onto the table as it made the half revolution off the board.

Some images from the glueup:

Next: fabricate and install a second stretcher in the front of the chair. The epoxy takes 24 hours to cure, and I won’t rush that.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"



5 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 2575 days


#1 posted 12-15-2010 08:45 AM

I look forward to follow this blog
ceep let them come we can always learn alot
to see where and why things fail
and what others do to repair them

take care
Dennis

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

17654 posts in 3135 days


#2 posted 12-15-2010 10:26 AM

Just like pens, don’t you have to post each and every one ;-)) (Sorry, I couldn’t resist) How far down do you plan on putting the new stretcher?

I glanced a the pics before I read; I wondered what the heck are those nails doing in there? I’m just a newbie trying to figure this stuff out. Think he shot them in instead of clamping?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2310 days


#3 posted 12-15-2010 06:02 PM

I have two theories about the nails. First, the mortises are inaccurate enough that they were necessary to keep the rails in proper alignment. Second, the cabinetmaker thought they’d make it stronger and better.

I just completed lacquering the stretchers. My inclination to to hold them up as high as I can, and they’ll be flush to the inside if the leg; set back, in other words. The lower they are the stronger the structure (and the less stress there will be on the lower joints) so that will guide me as well as the aesthetics.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2310 days


#4 posted 12-16-2010 08:35 PM

The chairs are delivered and someone forgot to photograph the finished product!

The preventive fix was a 3 3/4” stretcher in the front, set flush with the back of the front legs, spaced 2” down from the bottom of the seat rail.

I counted seventeen other chairs in use in the bank and suggested they do the fix on all of them to prevent more expensive failures which, statistically, are guaranteed to happen! We’ll see.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 2575 days


#5 posted 12-16-2010 10:20 PM

you´ll better take an hour tommorrow and make a drive for the picture…...LOL
maybee a chance in the bear future

Dennis

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