Monday afternoon, I noticed a broken chair left on the curbside a couple blocks from my house. I saw it again late Monday night on my way home from my Pool League match, but this time I stopped and had a closer look. It looked repairable, so I ended up bringing it home before it got soaked in the Tuesday storm and ruined.
The chair really wasn't in too bad of shape. The left arm had been broken off, but it was a clean break. The finish was OK, and the seat cushion was in good shape. (It's not shown in any of these pics.)
The front of the arm broke near a steel pin that attached it to the top of the leg. The pieces fit together well, so this would be an easy fix with PVA glue. (I had Elmer's Wood Glue handy.)
The back of the arm broke at the joint between the arm and the main stile. The break was clean, but the two 1/4" dowels had broken and frayed, so they were not going to glue up as they were. I don't have a pic of the broken dowels, but here's how the two sides of the joint looked after I cut and sanded the dowels flush:
I briefly considered drilling out the two dowels and replacing them, but because of the way the front of the arm was broken and the angled approach I needed to use to fit that joint together, I wouldn't be able to put the pieces together with one or two dowels sticking out of either the arm or the main stile. (Well, I could have, but I didn't feel like breaking any additional joints apart to do it.) Instead, I decided to drill from the back, insert a single, bigger dowel, and plug the resulting hole. (I wanted a face grain plug instead of the end grain of the dowel.) The front of each arm already had a plug in it to hide the steel pin, so plugs weren't unprecedented on this chair anyway. Here's an out of focus shot of one of the existing plugs. You can see it's not exactly well-hidden:
Using a high tech and microscopically measured depth stop on my drill, I drilled the hole for the dowel. For symmetry, I also planned to put a plug on the back of the other main stile too. (But no dowel. I figured it already had two in it anyway.) I turned a short dowel and used a plug cutter to make a couple of face grain cherry plugs. I turned the dowel to be a bit looser than normal to ensure I would be able to drive it to full depth. I'm going to dye the plugs when I fix up the finish, and I figured I could get the cherry to match the existing stain pretty easily. Turns out, the chair's most likely maple, but I should still be able to get the plugs dyed to match. The wood was tough drilling, whatever it is, even with a brand-new brad point bit.
After a dry-run on the clamping, I stuck it all together. I used PVA glue on the front of the arm since it was a good side grain to side grain joint, but used epoxy on the back to fill any potential gaps in that joint or around the dowel.
Here's the chair in the clamps:
The front of the arm:
The back of the arm:
A shot of the left-hand plug:
And the matching (fake) one on the other side:
Wednesday evening I'll play around with dyes, and see if I can take care of hiding the plugs. While I've got the dye out, I'll also touch up any other scratches and scrapes, as well as disguise the front joint a bit better. Then I'll touch up the shellac where necessary, including fixing one or two runs I've found in the existing finish. I'll post more pics when it's all done.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the chair when i finish it. Even though our house us decorated in a style that leans heavily on the late 20th Century Hand-Me-Down school, this chair doesn't really fit our present 'decor', if you want to call it that. ('scuse me for a second while I stop laughing.) I have no idea what a chair like this is worth if I were to try to sell it. Anybody here know? What style it this? Is it potentially valuable, or just an old chair? Despite the fact that it broke, it's well made using good wood. It has no visible screws, and uses old-school joinery and finishes. Not Ikea stuff, for sure. I'm seriously considering just taking it back to the original owner's house and just leaving it on the front porch or in the driveway. Maybe with a business card, or maybe anonymously. (I like to mess with people's heads...in a good way.)