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Thread: Seeking suggestions - repairing a cracked seat in a pew

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    London, Ontario

    Seeking suggestions - repairing a cracked seat in a pew

    Looking for some ideas on how to address this:

    We have a couple oak(?) pews at church where cracks have developed in the seat. Looks like a couple laminations might have separated. These are in the seat, and when people sit on them, and maybe shift around, the crack can open and shift and catch clothes or even worse yet, pinch.

    So I'm going to see what I can do about fixing this, and I'm looking for some ideas.

    This is a photo of one of our pews (not the broken one, an extra one that I bought at a fundraiser after a renovation, and no, I can't just bring this one in and swap them!!). This is just a visual aid to show what I mean:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The green line is sort of where the crack is located. The seat is sculpted, so there is some curve to it. The underside of the pew is NOT perfectly flat. Parts of it are quite flat, but not perfectly flat. You can tell that even 100 years ago when these pews were crafted, they knew better than to spend a lot of time on the part that no one would see. (Well, except for the little kids that crawl under, but I digress.)

    The crack is about 48" long on the one pew, maybe 30" on another. Removing the pew is not really an option I want to consider. Replacement is not an option. These are NOT heritage pieces that are protected by any sort of legislation. I need to fix it in place, which means crawling on the floor and working upside down on the bottom of the pew.

    Here are some ideas I've considered:
    1. Scab some plywood under the pew. Cut a piece about 48" long by 6" wide, and fasten it to the bottom of the pew with many screws. Will that prevent shifting?
    2. drive some pocket hole screws in across the crack from below. This might be tricky to get the holes screwed. I also worry that they might squeak worse, if the wood shifts and moves back and forth on the screws
    3. fab up a router jig: like a piece of plywood with a 2"x8-12" hole in it, fasten it to the bottom of the pew, use the router to excavate a shallow flat spot, which I then fill with some oak glued and screwed into place ???
    4. screw some ribs front-to-back across the crack underneath? Hardwood, maybe 1" thick by 8" long? Maybe combine this idea with the #1 idea?

    Got any better suggestions?

    ps: Vaughn, go ahead with the "pew pew" joke...
    There's usually more than one way to do it... ........

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Syracuse, Nebraska
    My first thought would be to screw some strips under there parallel to the crack and then put epoxy in from the top and clamp from the bottom. Obviously need to put something on the floor to catch drippings.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    So is there anything blocking you from putting bar clamps front to back under the seat to pull that gap back together? Can you cut/anchor a block on the front/back to allow your clamps a square surface to put pressure against? How are the ends attached? I'm just wondering where it's come loose from that is allowing the gap to move.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Cape Cod, Ma.
    Im in agreement with Roger. Epoxy. Mask off the cracks and put something underneath to catch the drippings. then just drip the epoxy into the check. possibly in two applications. You can tint the epoxy with dye to match the pew
    He who laughs last, thinks slowest

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Delton, Michigan
    another vote for epoxy, art..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    Well, Art...
    Crude, or elegant? I'd either screw on a couple ˝" plywood battens across the split (crude) or inlay a couple butterfly inserts across it (elegant).

    Then, I'd use epoxy down the length of the crack, making sure to work it in to full depth.

    Lately, I've been trying out a new epoxy formulation - West Systems "G/Flex 650 Toughened Epoxy." It's supposed to flex better with seasonal wood changes. I haven't got a joint I've used it on that's more than six months old, so I can't report on how well it works, but it certainly seems like a 'better idea,' and West Systems is certainly a reputable company, so I trust it'll live up to its press. I got mine from Jamestown Distributors, btw.
    Jim D.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Austin, Texas
    My first question is in line with Darren... is this a crack that can be pulled closed with a reasonable amount of effort? If a clamp or two will pull it together, then I would explore how to keep it together - a combination of glue and perhaps battens across the bottom or butterflies on the top.

    If the wood is not happy being pulled together, then (and only then) would I look at how to fill the crack in the most attractive way.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at

  8. #8
    Not Vaughn, but.....

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Salem, OR
    Just a thought, could you drill some pocket holes in the bottom and glue and use the screws to pull it together.
    "Have no fear of perfection--you'll never reach it."
    ---Salvador Dali

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