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Repairing a Spindle Back Chair

Materials List
Carpenter glue
Wood blocks
Wood dowel rods
Wax paper
Dental floss
Tools List (click item to shop)
Bar clamps
Tie down straps
Drill bits
Screw drivers
Fine paintbrush
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IMPORTANT: Read this before you start


Wooden spindle back chairs are prone to taking a lot of abuse. People tend to shift around in their seats, slide the chair back and forth and even lean back on the hind legs of a chair. Over time, normal use can strain the joints and component parts of a chair to the point that joints and parts can break or loosen. If these problems are not addressed quickly, they can turn into bigger problems.

Individual loose joints and minor splits in the wooden parts can be taken care of with relative ease. However, if worse comes to worst you can completely disassemble a spindle back chair and rebuild it. You should only consider this if most of the joints on the chair are loose. And even then, you should not disassemble joints that still in good shape.

In this tutorial we will address minor and major repairs that you can make to a spindle back chair. Choose the techniques needed for your particular situation.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
Time to Complete will depend on degree of repairs needed.
• Beginner - -
• Intermediate - -
• Advanced - -

Common Mistakes
A solid glue joint should not be disturbed. Try not to break solid joints as you repair loose ones.

Helpful Tips
Fix a loose joint or split pieces as soon as you discover it. Continued use of the chair can cause greater damage and cause other pieces to loosen or break.

1. Split rungs, rails or spindles.
To repair a split rung on a chair, lay the chair on its side so you can easily work on the damaged area. Take a piece of dental floss and coat it with carpenter’s glue. Work the floss into the split, coating both surfaces of the split area. Wipe off any glue on the chair’s finished surface.
2. Take two blocks of wood and sandwich the split in between them. Using a c-clamp, squeeze the blocks together around the split area. Wipe off any glue that oozes out of the split. Make sure the finished surfaces are flush. Let the glue set for 24 hours and remove the clamp. Flake off any dried glue on the finished surface of the chair.
3. Split platform.
If the platform (or seat) of the chair is split, gently pry the spit open and insert a small wedge in the spit to hold it open. Using a small artist’s paintbrush, coat the two sides on the split. Remove the small wedge.
4. Using bar clamps, squeeze the split closed. Use small blocks of wood to prevent the jaws of the clamp from marring the finished surface of the chair.
5. Loose joints.
If you have a few loose joints, a new glue job should tighten things up. Gently pull each joint apart so you can get a coat of glue inside the joint. Using an artist’s paintbrush, push glue into the joint. Alternatively, you can use a syringe and inject glue into the joint.
6. Clamp the joint together using a tie-down strap. Wrap it around the legs of the chair to pull the rails together.
7. If you are gluing spindle joints in the back of the chair, wrap it around the back and seat of the chair to pull the pieces together.
8. Rebuild a chair.
If you need to completely rebuild a spindle back chair, start by labeling all the pieces. Spindles, rungs and legs can vary in length and should go back to their original places. Remove any fasteners, such as screws and brackets. Drill out any dowels that are holding joints together. Using a mallet and a block of wood, tap apart all the joints. Once the chair is apart, fix and splits or damaged areas.
9. To reassemble the chair, start by gluing together the legs and rails. Use a tie-down strap to squeeze the pieces together. Then glue and assemble the chair seat. Use a block of wood and a mallet to tap it into position.

Finally, assemble the back of the chair by gluing together the side rails, top rail and spindles. Use a tie-down strap to pull the chair back into the chair seat. Use a bar clamp to pull together the side rails and top rail.

Once all the glue has set, replace fasteners and dowels. Flake off any glue on the chair’s finished surface.



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