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Thread: Curbside Chair Repair - Work's Done

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    ABQ NM
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    Curbside Chair Repair - Work's Done

    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.)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    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.)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    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:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    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:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    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.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    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:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The front of the arm:

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    The back of the arm:

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    A shot of the left-hand plug:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    And the matching (fake) one on the other side:

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    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.)
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Tokyo Japan
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    15,807
    Great fix, and you know what I'd do, I'd wrap it up with a bow and put it back at their house with a note, something clever, "You know who" or "The Busted Chair Repair Fairy" or something like that.

    If you put your business card, they might think that you are wanting to get paid..... then again, you could always tell them you enjoyed fixing it and if they need anything more fixed, or know anyone that would be great, cheap advertising.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
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    ABQ NM
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    You're thinking along the same lines as me, Stu. A ribbon and bow, for sure. As much as I like the idea of being The Midnight Woodworking Ninja (which sounds much better than The Busted Chair Repair Fairy ), the word of mouth advertising could be worth much more than the chair. If I did leave a card, I'd be sure to stress that the repair was for my own fun and practice, not money. (And of course mention that I'd be available for paid work if they knew anyone who needed similar problems solved.) And the chair's owners would still get the surprise of the thrown-away chair coming back to them fixed...for free.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
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    Nice repair! The only thing I'd have done differently would've been to inset the dowel a bit deeper, and make a face grain plug to better match the finishing.

    I've done a couple similar repairs, using a cut off 5/16" bolt instead of a dowel, epoxied in and covered with a plug. Very strong, and virtually unnoticeable if the finish match is good.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    DSM, IA
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    Vaughn, I like The Midnight Woodworking Ninja! We furnished our home this way for quite awhile, until the hand-me-downs came rolling in. We still have quite a few pieces that we salvaged from dumpsters, curbs and alleys.

    At one time there was a show on that had 2 brothers that took stuff from the curb, made it into something different and then put it on the porch and rang the doorbell. Not sure if it's still on (don't have cable anymore) but some of the stuff they came up with was kinda cool.

    BTW nice fix too.
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
    My Website


  6. #6
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    Definitely like the idea of leaving it on the porch with a bow. Hilarious!
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  7. #7
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    Sep 2007
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    Plainwell, Michigan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post
    Definitely like the idea of leaving it on the porch with a bow. Hilarious!
    and hide in the bushes to see their expression, that would be a great payment to see the surprise, it could have been a family heirloom you repaired for them, WELL DONE VAUGHN

  8. #8
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    Yorktown, Virginia
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    Even more hilarious would be to see it back out in the trash the next day!!! (Occasionally things get accidentally broken....like the leg lamp in Christmas Story)
    Last edited by Ted Calver; 02-10-2010 at 04:17 PM.

  9. #9
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    Cedar Rapids, IA
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    I'd definitely leave it on the porch as well. Who knows, maybe the misses hated the thing and broke it on purpose.


    (Ted apparently had the same thought. )

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    I like the idea of giving it back, also.

    Regarding the dowel in the back of the chair, remember that Sam Maloof used to comment that a screw was just a metal dowel.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

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