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Windsor chairs...water damage

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Forum topic by wamwood posted 04-22-2017 01:58 PM 425 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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wamwood

3 posts in 235 days


04-22-2017 01:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question trick refurbishing

Hello Lumber Jocks At Large,

I have a question about the fate of a set of used windsor chairs I just purchased—last night in fact. It was a craigslist deal that was going great up until the point where I loaded the set of six Pottery Barn dining chairs in the back of my pick up truck. The skies didn’t look that ominous to me, but that’s why I’m not a weatherman, farmer, golfer, genius. It poured. Hard. And for the entire 30 minute ride home. Did I have a tarp to cover my new loot? No. I had ropes and blankets which did the job intended for them but that was it. Oh, and I also had one very stressed out wife sitting beside me at the rain pounded.

We got home and dried the chairs best we could. There were white marks that eventually faded. I tried not to wipe too hard to protect the finish, and I left the ceiling fan running for circulation. The result, nearly 20 hours later, is hard to describe.The wood on the seat where the spindles join is raised in places and the paint (hopefully not the wood) has split at some places. Here are pictures…

I know these aren’t great photos but I hope they’ll suffice. I need to know what’s going on. The chairs are painted so I don’t know what kind of wood it is. Is this the paint bubbling and splitting, or is it the wood? I’m wondering if the wood is still wet in the spindle joints and maybe I should remove the backs so the holes can air out. Thoughts anyone?

Thanks in advance for your input,
Steve

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement--Mark Twain


6 replies so far

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Rich

1976 posts in 424 days


#1 posted 04-22-2017 03:19 PM

I’m sure you’ll get dozens of opinions on here. My best guess is that perhaps the tenons swelled up when water got down in there and cracked the wood. I can’t honestly think of any other cause of the cracks being where they are, and running in the direction of the grain as they appear to in the photos.

It doesn’t look like an easy fix I’m sorry to say. I believe you will have to remove the spindles to repair the finish anyway, so your idea about taking the back off is a good way to go.

-- No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

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JBrow

1273 posts in 754 days


#2 posted 04-23-2017 01:00 AM

Wamwood,

If the chairs are well made, the spindles are likely to be in holes drilled all the way through the seat and maybe even wedged in place. Even if the back spindles are not set in through holes, the wood will eventually dry out without having to perform any surgery. Therefore, probably the best thing to do at this point is to park the chairs in the house, out of the way and out of the direct sunlight, and wait; making no effort to speed the drying.

If the issues with the chairs are moisture related, once the moisture exits the chairs, things may go back to the way they were before the downpour. A moisture meter could help determine when the chairs are dry. But with no moisture meter, waiting at least a month before deciding on any course of action would probably be a good idea. If the white lines persist, they could be lightly sanded flush (if needed) and colored with a black Sharpie. This repair would probably only be noticed by you.

Depending on how the chairs were made, disassembling may be possible without damaging the chairs. However, I would personally try to avoid disassembling the chairs. This would be a lot of work, things can go wrong (and usually do for me) and the chairs could look worse for the effort.

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wamwood

3 posts in 235 days


#3 posted 04-24-2017 02:19 PM

Thank you so much for your input Rich and JBrow. I agree with you Rich that it probably was the tenon swelling. Fortunately the splitting only is on the surface, which makes me hope it’s just the finish. JBrow advise is solid too. At this stage of the game, I run a high risk of compounding the damage attempting to remove the backs. Mainly due to my inexperience. I’m a newbie to woodworking so, while I’d love the experience of dissecting these chairs, waiting a few weeks to see what happens naturally feels like the best course of action.

This makes me wonder. Are mortise and tenon joints commonly affected by water damage? It seems to me that if water can get in the joint, the exposed end grain will gladly soak up the moisture and expanded. I ask because I’m thinking of building some outdoor furniture (picnic table and some chairs). Should I use M&T joints or simply glue and screws/bolts for long term durability? Thanks!

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement--Mark Twain

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JBrow

1273 posts in 754 days


#4 posted 04-25-2017 01:18 AM

Wamwood,

My only experience with outdoor projects is a red oak picket fence wherein the 2-1/2” wide pickets were let into the top and bottom rails with half lap joints. After about five or six years the half lap joints remain solid with no mechanical fasteners (even though I am sure that the width and thickness of the pickets change as moisture levels in the wood change). I did protect the upper-most end grain of the pickets with a cap rail, as well as maintaining the sealer that is applied to the fence.

Based on this limited experience, I would not hesitate to use mortise and tenon joints on outdoor furniture. I would limit the size of the tenons to no more than about 2-1/2” wide and ½” thick. The mortises would be a little longer than the width of the tenons so that should the tenons expand in width, the swollen tenon would not encounter the ends of the mortise. A tenon with a thickness no more than ½” would be unlikely (in my opinion) to expand to such an extent that the mortise walls would crack, assuming the each wall of the mortise is as thick or thicker than the tenon.

If the furniture is carefully designed, many joints can be protected by ensuring that water can drain away from the joints and not stand on the furniture. An outdoor finish to protect the wood could also reduce that amount of moisture that can enter the wood and joinery.

View EricTwice's profile

EricTwice

228 posts in 368 days


#5 posted 04-25-2017 02:53 AM

It was caught in a rain shower, it didn’t sit in a flood. Twenty hours is plenty of time for them to be dry. the water has done all the damage it will.

Let us be honest. These are not museum pieces. they are not hand made or 200 years old. They are modern, factory made and not particularly expensive. (They were not a thousand+ each) You don’t have to handle them with white gloves and treat them like a museum conservator.

The only reason to remove the back is to reglue it, and the only reason you would want to do that is if your back is loose. Those backs can be a problem for a beginner to remove and put back correctly. (I have done hundreds but I still remember the first ones I worked on) If the back is loose turn the chair upside down and find the place where the bow comes through the seat. It should be wedged. try to remove the old wedge. an awl works about as well as anything. they are often glued in and don’t come out. the end of the bow will be cut down to about 3/4 of an inch or 19mm. take a wooden dowel and use it to drive the bow end back through the seat and hope you don’t do a lot more damage to the seat when it comes out. note, you have to work both sides at the same time or work from side to side equally or you risk breaking the bow.(VERY BAD THING) If they are loose (this is the reason for removing it) the spindles will fall free. and you will have a nice heap once the bow is out. Unless they are pinned with nails and then you will have a big mess to clean up. (sometimes it is best to dribble some thin super glue into the joints making sure to wipe it off the finish before it dries. everything is reglued and locked up tight. do not do this on an important piece.)

The seat was probably prefinished and then sent through a CNC machine to drill the holes. the finish cracked at the spindles because that is where the water got through the finish. The wood expanded and then contracted as it dried and the finish did not. My guess is that it is some type of catalyzed lacquer or possibly conversion varnish. and it will not be easily repaired. Stripping the finish is the only real repair and it is a pain because some of these modern finishes do strip.

To my viewing, the finish is mildly distressed. You just increased the distressing a little. work the cracked finish down with a scraper and and put dark oil, wax or shoe polish (or sharpie as others have suggested) on the wood to seal it to help it blend in. Then enjoy the chairs.

-- nice recovery, They should pay extra for that mistake, Eric E.

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wamwood

3 posts in 235 days


#6 posted 05-08-2017 02:47 AM

Thanks Eric and Jbrow! I apologize for not saying that sooner. After Eric so kindly pointed out that my chairs didn’t come from the royal family, Life stepped in to provide a bit more perspective. The damaged stain on these chairs turned out a trifle compared to the hvac/home warranty problems I have going for me now. But it’s all good and will work out fine. I’m grateful for this group and my new journey living life one shaving at a time. As for the chairs, I only cleaned up and then began using them. The finished has cracks from when the wood bulged at the joints but it’s not a big deal. They still look great and best of all are really comfortable. I learned a lot for everyone’s input though so thanks again!

Cheers,
Steve

-- Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement--Mark Twain

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