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Wood Repair
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Links to help you navigate directly to the section of interest.

A Word About Doing It Yourself  |  Benefits 

Customizing  |  Features  |  Humidity

Making New Pieces  |  More Sample Repairs

Other Projects  |  Our 10 Step Rebuilding System 

Particle Board (MDF)  |  Permanent Repairs - Pros and Cons

Sample Repairs  |  Veneer Repair

 

The ideal length of a vacation is,

 just long enough to be missed and

 not long enough for them to discover how well they can get along without you.


Features of the Chair Doctor Repair System.

  • 49-year warranty

  • Non-shrinking glue.  Most other glues are water based, meaning that in order to cure they need to give up water.  When they give up water they shrink.   For a cabinet that stands against a wall on which no one sits and wiggles around, this is fine (though even these will loosen over time).  But on a piece of furniture that gets regular use, sooner or later the joints will get loose.  A well-built chair may last longer than a less expensive chair, but eventually they all get loose.  When they get loose, they usually break.  Our glues don't shrink, so we can warranty the repair for a long, long time.

  • Color-matching.  Our glue can be colored to match the finish so our repairs virtually disappear!


Benefits: What do you get with a Chair Doctor repair?

Longevity - your furniture will last a long, long time.  If you have kids, they will be arguing over who gets what long after you have ceased to care about it.  But the memories they have of you will endure through your beautiful and sturdy heirlooms.

Durability - your furniture will be very strong.  With all joints firmly working together, your furniture will resist breaking better than it ever did.

Usability - Most people don't live in a museum.  They want to use and enjoy what they've worked so hard to obtain.  You don't need display pieces sitting around that you can look at but can't use.

Possibility - impossible repairs, frequently turned down by other shops, are usually no problem for the Chair Doctor.  We prefer to save as much of the original wood as possible, and we have the system and adhesives that allow us to do it.  If we need to fill gaps or create new sections where chunks are missing, we can do it.


The Chair Doctor of Grand Junction

10-step system

for chair (or other wood) repair

  1. Examination, diagnosis (and prognosis!)

    1. First we carefully examine the chair for the presence of breaks, previous repairs, nails, screws, and other impediments to solid repairs.

    2. There are some things that may not be seen that can affect pricing.  Age of the wood (brittleness), hidden splits or cracks, seams that may barely be holding together at the moment (like seat seams) which will come apart on disassembly, and broken screws, are all impediments to a repair and can cause an increase in the estimated cost.

    1. This picture shows a split inside the socket (also called a mortise) of a chair leg.  This particular split didn't affect the cost or difficulty of repair, and it didn't affect the structural integrity (very much, anyway), but it does show how damage can sometimes be hidden.  Very much longer and this split could've easily graduated to a break.

  2. Marking

    1. Each piece is carefully marked so when reassembling we know which piece goes where, which end is which, and even which end is up!

    2. Occasionally, someone else previously put parts in an incorrect order or place.  In many cases this can be corrected, but it is very hard to make decisions to move parts back to what appears to be their original places unless it is very clear what happened.

  3. Careful disassembly

    1. Most of the time pieces are so loose they can just be pulled out.  But many times the pieces are held by screws or nails, or sometimes a few of the joints are still solid (at the moment).  The Chair Doctor of Grand Junction uses a variety of tools to remove nails or broken screws, soften old glue, remove shims, and clip wire.

    2. Sometimes seats with cracks in them are given a sharp rap with a soft mallet to see if the joints will fail.  It is better to repair them now than to put the chair together and later on have a seat split apart.

    3. We also use a soft mallet on old repairs to see if they are on the verge of failing.  Again, it is much better to find out now than later!

  4. Thorough cleaning of all joints and seams.

    1. Each joint or seam is thoroughly cleaned of all old glue, dirt, finish, and whatever else would be between a good glue joint and a bad one.  All foreign material must be removed and the wood pores opened up for good glue penetration.

    2. It is important to remove as much other material as possible without changing the fit.  As a matter of fact, one of the problems with home repairs or sometimes even repairs from other shops is the build up of glue inside the socket.  What happens is that glue sits on top of glue, and makes a spacer which throws off the fit of the pieces.  Too much glue and the pieces don't sit flush and level with each other, which means when weight is applied (like for instance chair legs) and moved around, the cock-eyed structure doesn't hold up very well.

    3. Since the glue we use is structural, meaning that it is much tougher than regular glues and can frequently stand on its own, we can work with larger tolerances than if we were using the old-fashioned carpenter's or yellow glue.  The pictures below show the end of a chair leg with old glue (left) and after the glue has been cleaned off (right).

        

     

    1. The next set of pictures shows a socket (also called a mortise) that has been cleaned (right) of all the build up of glue (left).

      

  5. Customizing the glue

    1. Depending on repair type and whether or not gaps need to be filled or sanded, we use special fillers to thicken the glue.

    2. If the glue is going into a mortise and tenon-type joint (socket and tip) it needs to be thickened so it will not sag.

    3. If there is a gap in the repair due to missing wood or missing pieces, then the glue is thickened with special agents that improve the ability to sand it smooth.  In the picture below, there is a split in the chair seat that cannot hardly be seen.  Can you spot it?  It is the heavier straight line, towards the right third of the picture (looks like a dark grain line), between the two spindles (just to the right of the 'r' in Doctor).  Plus there was a gap around the inside base of the left spindle (above the word 'Chair').

  6. Color matching

    1. All the glue that will be visible after a repair is complete is color matched either to the finish or to the wood if possible.

    2. Our glues can accept stain or dye much better than standard paste wood fillers.  Not only that, they are much longer lasting.  In the before (left) and after pictures below you can see a very slight line in the middle of the repair on the right which blends in with the overall look of the chair.  This type of repair is impossible with regular glues.  The pieces may get glued back together, but the strength will be less than when using our glues.

       

  7. Reassembly and clamping.

    1. All the pieces of the repair are reassembled exactly as they were, when the piece was brought in, and clamped in place with firm pressure.  Each joint must have pressure applied to hold the pieces in the correct positions and make the tightest fit possible.  As many as 20 clamps are needed for each chair (although usually eight to ten are sufficient) and more for larger pieces.

    2. Clamps are padded to avoid damaging the wood or the finish.

  8. Cleaning and touch up.

    1. All excess glue is wiped off the repair.

    2. If the finish color was rubbed off during the process of repair, or from previous looseness (such as rub marks from an end that popped out of a socket), we touch it up so it blends with the rest of the finish.  You may feel it, but it will be difficult to spot with the eye from normal viewing angles.

  9. Squaring and leveling.

    1. Before the glue in the repair cures, all pieces are aligned and squared if they need it, and all pieces positioned so they appear as balanced as possible.  But it is not always possible to get everything looking right if the furniture did not fit right to begin with.  This is especially true in the case of hand-made furniture.  We've measured on occasion and found holes drilled at different distances when they should be the same, or pieces cut to different lengths when they should be the same (or the same length when they should be different!). 

    2. Sometimes we do the leveling and squaring, only to find out that a piece doesn't fit right (perhaps another leg was shortened because of looseness, for instance).  After squaring and/or leveling, pieces are adjusted if needed (such as in the case of chair legs).  One back chair leg we measured one time was an inch longer than its mate.  No wonder we were having a hard time squaring and leveling it!

  10. Signing and dating.

    1. The person who makes the repair(s) will sign his or her initials, date the work, and apply a symbol that tells us what part of the furniture was repaired.

    2. Symbols like a circle with a G in it tells us that the whole piece was re-glued.  A line under the G tells us that just the bottom section was re-glued, and a line over the top of a G tells us just the top or back was glued.  Sometimes there will be lines on the sides of the G telling us just the arms of a chair (again, for instance) were glued.


Sample Repairs

The top left of the above picture series shows a break in the front of a back support on a chair (back leg), while the top right is after gluing and finishing.  The bottom left shows the same break from the back, and the bottom right shows the back after we were done working.  In both right hand pictures (especially the top one) you can barely see the break.  In the top right look real close just right of the last 'n' in Junction and you might see a diagonal line a little darker than the rest of the finish.  The seam would've been much harder to see if this leg had not been repaired before (material was removed then, and we had to remove the old glue and some of the material for the new repair).

Missing chunk

Sometimes we get a piece that is missing something.  The nice thing about our glue is that we can also use it as a filler, colored to match the finish.  The picture below shows the back of a dining chair that was missing one of the bottom corners.  Can you tell which one?

The missing corner was the one on the left.  About a half-inch was broken off at sometime in the past, and the client didn't know where the piece was.  I know, it's probably not fair that we're so good, but think what we can do for you!

For more sample repairs, click  More Repairs


Humidity

Everybody knows that a drier climate will cause a chair to loosen up, right?  Actually, everybody may know it, but it really isn't true.  Our area (western Colorado) is pretty dry, and wood can shrink a tiny bit here.  Higher humidity also can cause a little bit of swelling in wood joints, making them a little tighter than perhaps they would be in a dry climate like ours.  So some people think that moving here from a more humid climate means that the dryness is the thing causing their chairs to get loose.

Nope.

Older style glues give up water to cure.  When they give up water they shrink.  This is what causes the chair to get loose.  For cabinets, that sit against a wall and nobody wiggles around on them, this is not such a problem.  Many of those joints don't give out simply because they are mostly in-line with each other, meaning the grain in the seams is all going the same direction.  Gluing wood pieces side-by-side makes for a stronger joint than gluing with grain going at 90 degree angles to each other (like in a chair leg joint).  See, grain tends to expand and contract with temperature anyway.  But it expands and contracts at different rates, depending on if it is end grain or side grain.

So temperature (along with wiggling and shrinking glue) has a greater effect on chair loosening than humidity.  If you think about it too, this makes sense because people in humid climates tend to have air conditioning, which dries out the air.  When they move here they may not have air conditioning, which in some cases can actually raise the humidity level they (and their furniture) are used to.

Realizing this means we can't really blame humidity, or the lack of it, for chair loosening.  It just happens over time whether we want it to or not.

 


A Word About Doing It Yourself

Don't.

We're not saying this just because we want you to come to The Chair Doctor and spend money.  We give some help here and there to do-it-yourselfers all the time, because there are things that it just doesn't make sense to pay us for.  The problem with anything more than a few basic procedures is usually you will make things worse.  If a repair is not made with thorough methods it can easily cause more problems down the road.

For instance, if the arm of a chair isn't repaired completely, it can cause the seat to split right where the pieces go into the edge, drastically increasing the cost of fixing it properly later.  If glue is added to a socket (mortise) without removing old glue, not only will the pieces not stick together like they are supposed to, which might cause breakage later, but the old glue acts like a spacer throwing off the integrity of the whole piece.

Sometimes you might be tempted to use products such as Gorilla glue or other solutions that are supposed to cause the wood to swell or something like that.  Every once in a while, for a while, these products might work.  However, they are not consistent, especially since they don't address the actual problem in the first place (dried out and shrunken glue).  Because they are not consistent, sooner or later you will be bringing the piece to us anyway.  Then it will cost more money than it would've originally because we have to try to get the two or three joints apart where the swelling solution or the fancy glue accidentally sort of worked.  If the approach was more consistent, a person might not need us.

So if you can get the pieces apart, and clean out all the old glue, and use a good glue that has sufficient inherent structural properties to overcome higher gap tolerances due to glue removal, and if you have 10 or so clamps to put it back together with, and you can square/level it properly, then fine, you should do it yourself.  Or maybe it would be much easier just to bring it to the Doctor.

 


Permanent Repairs - Pros and Cons

There is argument in some quarters of the woodworking industry on the advisability of making permanent repairs.  Some like the idea (like us and our clients) and some don't.  On the plus side the joint is much stronger and long lasting because the permanent glue doesn't shrink. 

Objections mostly center around the loss of ability to disassemble should the need arise in the future.  For instance, if the chair breaks anywhere not at a joint (like the back breaking in half because of tipping over backwards) then repairs will be much more involved and expensive.

It is true that it is very difficult to take one of our joints apart if the need should ever come up.  When we say permanent we really mean it.  We can't even hardly take one of our joints apart (fortunately we have only had to take apart a couple so far).  We prefer not to cut them apart unless we have to.  But how often does it happen that something breaks, unless it is loose in the first place?

If we have reglued the item, it is extremely strong and the likelihood of a break is remote.  All the joints are working together to reinforce each other.  On the other hand, if regular glue is used, which is easier to disassemble, then that means it will be coming apart for sure even if it's not planned.  So which is better?  We feel, and it seems as though our clients agree with us, that most people prefer knowing that once the item is glued it is going to stay glued, even if they have to pay a little more. 


 

Copyright 2006 The Chair Doctor of Grand Junction
Last modified: 03/25/11