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Crack in Armchair Joint

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postexitus

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Dear UKWorkshop,

I recently bought a second hand armchair. Although it has exceeded my expectations in many senses, I see a crack / opening in one of its joints (not sure if this was there when I purchased it). Given the dovetail itself seems to have been cracked, I thought it may need urgent attention. What are my options here? is this something DIY'able or do I need an expert?

Kind Regards,
Oliver Wyman
 

Jacob

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I'd say very difficult proper job - dismantle as far as necessary and rebuild,
or bodge - long screw (10" no14?) through from the front to pull the joint tight. Could plug the hole quite easily and nobody would ever know!
 

marcros

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Nice chair. Very much en vogue at the moment too.
 

Phil Pascoe

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Not a dovetail, so no problems there. It's a tenon or dowels, either of which you're in with chance of sticking without taking things apart. Clean any loose glue or dirt in the joint out first, then drill a few small holes on the inside of the frame where it is (these won't be seen with the seat replaced). Get hold of a syringe, fill with glue and inject it into the joint then camp it up - a Spanish windlass will probably do if you haven't got clamps. Make sure it'll pull tight before you glue up. If it's dowelled you might not be able to see which side they've pulled from so it would pay to do it both sides of the joint (most I've seen have pulled from the leg not the rail, but all) - if you get some light behind the joint you may be able to see whether it a tenon or dowels.
 

Trevanion

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As Jacob said, that's going to be a very difficult job to repair properly. Since it's more than likely been glued with modern adhesives, trying to take it apart to repair it is only going to cause more damage than what's already there.

Simply gluing it back together isn't really going to work perfectly as it will only crack again within a short timeframe because it's a majority end grain to long grain joint which doesn't bond anywhere near as well as a long grain to long grain joint. The best solution would be as Jacob already said, drill a hole slightly larger than the head of the screw you will use (Usually about 12mm) through the front of the leg to suit a 12mm wooden plug and pre-drill through to the cross member and use a long screw perhaps 6" or so long to pull them together tight with glue in the joint, while you're at it you may as well do the other side too to prevent future breakage.

It's not an overly complex job, but if you're not confident in your own DIY skills you could always take it to a local professional joiner, cabinetmaker or furniture maker/restorer to have it repaired, a repair like that won't cost the earth as it's only 30 minutes or so of work. If you've got a local college that has a furniture making and restoring course you may even be able to get a student to repair it for you at a cheap price.
 

Geoff_S

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Could you glue it, clamp it and then get behind it to secure it with a metal plate?
 

Setch

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A better, and more invisible repair would be a pocket hole screw or two, in a position where they're not seen unless the chair is upside down. No need to plug, and a screw which is going into facegrain, rather than endgrain.

I'd drill and screw whilst the joint is pulled up tight with a ratchet clamp or Spanish windlass.
 

MikeG.

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There's good reason why chairs aren't screwed in the first place, and those reasons still apply when it comes to repairs. Screw those joints together and you can guarantee that you'll be chucking the chair out in a year or two. They'll introduce forces into small sections of wood and vulnerable short grain which they weren't designed for. Sure, it'll look great for a while, with the joint closed up and the squeaking gone, so if a short-term fix is OK for you, whack a pocket hole screw into it. Just choose the situation carefully before you do that. If it's your own chair, or that of someone you expect to still know in a couple of years time, then forget the pocket hole jig and do the job properly.
 

Trevanion

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MikeG.":34bs8pez said:
do the job properly
Without trying to sound antagonising, It's all well and good saying that Mike, but what would you call proper?
 

MikeG.

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Trevanion":2i9paaam said:
MikeG.":2i9paaam said:
do the job properly
.........what would you call proper?
That would depend on what I found in examining the whole chair. It's quite unlikely, in my experience, that only one joint can break without affecting any others. If a number of joints are failing I would take the whole thing to bits , clean up and re-glue. If it really were just the one I would do what Phil P suggests. Never in a month of Sundays would I tosh-screw it.....the ultimate bodge short of whacking a nail in. Seriously, I would cut it up first before doing that.

I'm sure every single woodworker here has had someone bring a chair to them for repair. I hate it. I absolutely hate it, because there is only one way of doing the job properly, and it is difficult and time consuming, often involves taking apart joints which haven't failed, and can go very wrong. And when the thing fails again years later, your sister in law will always remember that you fixed it, but forget that she only gave you half an hour to do the job, and that you told her it was only fit for the fire.
 

Trevanion

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MikeG.":3oebgzek said:
That would depend on what I found in examining the whole chair. It's quite unlikely, in my experience, that only one joint can break without affecting any others. If a number of joints are failing I would take the whole thing to bits , clean up and re-glue. If it really were just the one I would do what Phil P suggests. Never in a month of Sundays would I tosh-screw it.....the ultimate bodge short of whacking a nail in. Seriously, I would cut it up first before doing that.
I dunno Mike, I don't think it's actually feasible to take that apart without causing more damage than it's worth. I don't think that only glue would hold the joint either, it's already cracked for a reason which is the end grain to long grain glue joint. I don't see why a screw through the front of the chair with glue in the cracked joint would fail any more than any other method, you're adding a mechanical hold to the joint which should last many years if done well.

I agree with you on nails though! I've repaired quite a few heirloom Windsor chairs that have been in local farmer's families for generations that quite often have a large nail through a joint somewhere to stop it creaking. :lol:
 

Phil Pascoe

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The ones I've repaired have more often than not been commercially made and glued with a UF. They have often had dry joints from day one, and then the glue has shattered because of being bone dry and rigid when the joint has been stressed (central heating). This is hard and moisture resistant and doesn't appear to affect PVA when it's injected. As Mile says it's near impossible to knock perfectly sound joints apart for access to the damaged one.
 

Jacob

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MikeG.":1weeepel said:
There's good reason why chairs aren't screwed in the first place, and those reasons still apply when it comes to repairs. Screw those joints together and you can guarantee that you'll be chucking the chair out in a year or two......
That's why I was suggesting a whacking big screw say 10" long and heavy gauge. A window frame fixing type. Not to just hold the pieces together but to grip well into the end grain and take all the strain on the joint. Orthopaedic surgery.
You couldn't open the one joint for a proper repair/rebuild without opening others. This most likely could only be done by sawing through. Might as well just make a new chair.
PS nails are widely used in period furniture, from new or for repairs, sometimes with neat blacksmith made brackets. They are highly effective - don't knock em! Not for this job though.
 

ED65

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postexitus":mvaqeoj5 said:
is this something DIY'able...?
I think myself this is the key question since really everything can be repaired, the issue for you is how much time are you willing to put into learning how? Plus the tools needed to do the work might well come to more than you'd think, possibly exceeding what you paid for the chair.

I can think of about four or five possible ways this could be repaired but the fact that a tenon seems to have split – across the grain no less! – certainly gives me pause. It might be that this is fairly simple to repair, with the right tools, and with confidence of it being a lifetime repair (lifetime of the chair, not your lifetime) but I'd want to examine the chair in person so I could look at it as a whole as a few have already mentioned, see what else might be going on.
 

TheTiddles

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Nice chair.
A good repair will be a huge amount of work and will likely involve breaking most of the joints apart and doing more damage in the process (this is why I too hate repairing chairs, I’ve got to really like someone to do that for them)
I think the best option is the long screw, and extra glue, maybe add a plug on the other side so it doesn’t look odd too.
Aidan
 

Jacob

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phil.p":3toy68up said:
Why do you think the tenon has split across the grain and not just pulled out? Why do you think it's a tenon and not dowels?
Bad design detail. The tenon should have been long grain from the rail into a mortice in the leg. I suspect there are dowels in there too, or a loose tenon.
 

Sheffield Tony

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Yes, surely what you can see is just a haunch for alignment, and there is a dowel joint in there, or the chair would have collapsed by now !

Anyone know if the Veritas chair doctor kits are any use here ? Injectable glue with a syringe.

The curve of that back looks really bad for you. I think I might consider its burning properties.
 
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