Repairing old oak chair

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Project by DaleMaley posted 03-13-2016 10:09 PM 696 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My father-in-law, more than 10 years ago, refinished an old set of oak chairs. They turned out very nice, but somewhere along the line, he lost 2 of the curved pieces that attach the seat to the back. He has been deceased for 12 years now.

I was asked to make new curved pieces to repair the chair, so the whole set can be sold together.

The original curved pieces were probably steam bent. I have a steam generator and box, and tried it a few times. I have not figured out how to bend pieces thicker than a 1/4”. I suspect I should have soaked the blanks of red oak in water for a day or two before I tried to steam bend them.

So the other option that I was 90% sure would work, is to glue laminate thin strips of red oak, and clamp them in a bend fixture. I used yellow Tite-bond glue.

I used my thin-strip jig on the table saw to cut the strips of red oak.

I use a 3/4” diameter round-over bit on the router table to change the glued up blank from square to round…...then the Dremel with drum sander to point the ends.

I test fit them on the chair, and was ready for stain and polyurethane. One trick I have used to speed up finishing is to bake small pieces for 10 minutes max to dry either stain or polyurethane. I used this trick on this project….....but when I went to screw on the finished pieces to the chair, one piece fit fine, and the other did not!!

One piece had dried several days after glue-up, but the other only 48 hours. Maybe the glue wasn’t fully cured on the 48 hour piece, and the heat opened it up??

After some salty Sailor terms were uttered, I was able to put the bad piece back in the clamp fixture….....then 10 minutes of oven time, and 10 minutes in the freezer to cool down…......and it fit close enough :)

I guess I won’t be using my oven trick on any future projects with glued up bent laminations!

If you are interested in my Trials & Tribulations on this project, see my woodworking web site.


-- Dale, Illinois,

3 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21114 posts in 3225 days

#1 posted 03-14-2016 03:51 AM

Nice repair on that beautiful chair!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View DaleMaley's profile


440 posts in 2356 days

#2 posted 03-14-2016 01:41 PM

Nice repair on that beautiful chair!!


- Jim Jakosh

Thanks, it is a beautiful old oak chair!

-- Dale, Illinois,

View DaleMaley's profile


440 posts in 2356 days

#3 posted 03-14-2016 01:50 PM

I did some Googling on steam bending again, to see if soaking red oak in water first would help steam bending.

I came across this Lee Valley/Veritas free PDF file that has very good explanations of steam bending.

It says you can not steam bend kiln dried oak, even if you soak it in water first. It says you must have air dried oak to be able to steam bend. I am sure the red oak I tried to steam bend a couple years ago was kiln dried. I don’t have a source for air dried red or white oak. Maybe this explains why I had little success when I tried steam bending the 1s time.

-- Dale, Illinois,

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