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Repairing a set of dining chairs

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Repair
- 16 Dec 2017 -
32 posts / 0 new
#1

I recently purchased a set of what I think are Erik Buck model 49 dining chairs that need some love. Most of the joints are loose. The backrests are held in with screws hidden behind wood caps, some of which are missing. And the frames are held together, it looks, by dowels.


I've restored finishes before, but I've never repaired loose joints on chairs like this before and wanted to get some advice on how to go about it. Also I could use some advice on how to source replacement screws and wood caps for the seat backs.


Thanks!


Repairing a set of dining chairs
Periods
1950 - 1959

Comments

- 16 Dec 2017

Get a dead blow mallet and a little steamer. Steam the joints and delicately tap them open. Clean off the old glue, and re-glue. Make sure you dry fit your clamps on. And you HAVE to clamp the joints while they dry are you are doing more harm than good.

You could check eBay for plugs, or find a local woodturner to make you a few out of teak.

- 16 Dec 2017

Thanks Leif -

Just to be clear - Steam to help disassemble and simply glue to re-assemble? Any glue recommendations? Should I use new dowels or reuse?

- 16 Dec 2017

The dowels are likely to stay in the cross members, and come out of the side members (there is very little good glue surface are in a side grain hole). So just use the existing dowels.

The steam softens the glue and the deadblow mallet eases it apart.

Plain Titebond (ie not II or III), or if you prefer use hide glue, perhaps Titebond's liquid hide glue.

- 17 Dec 2017

One more question - What's a good source of steam for this kind of thing? Does it require specialized equipment?

- 17 Dec 2017

I have a little hand held steamer for taking the wrinkles out of clothes. You could probably hold the chairs over a kettle on the stove.

Or maybe you will discover they just come apart very easily with a deadblow mallet.

- 18 Jan 2018

I am most of the way through with cleaning and re-gluing these chairs and it's going good so far. One thing I'm unsure of though... the backrests are held on with 2 small screws on each side and even with the screws installed the backrests aren't completely solid. I don't want to torque the screws too much since the wood they're going into is very thin and seems delicate, and longer/bigger screws don't seem like an option due to the thin/curved nature of the backrests (see picture). I'm wondering if I should just lightly glue the backrest to the sides of the chair. Any potential drawbacks in doing this? Would it even hold if I did? If so, should I glue inside the screw holes or just glue the sides of the backrest to the sides of the chair?

- 18 Jan 2018

Do NOT glue the backrest. That will not hold at all and will just make a mess that is harder to fix later.

Can longer screws be used?

- 18 Jan 2018

On the issue of the replacing the plugs: the ones you buy in the US are not metric and won't fit the holes very well. If they're the mushroom type plugs, which i think they are, then you can get the slightly too-small size and stick them in place with some Museum Wax (available where candles are sold as sticky wax dots for securing candles in candleholders). This is better than glue because you can easily remove the plugs in the future if you ever need to, and it has very good gripping power provided you use enough of it. The mushroom top will cover the gap.

I've had best results with oak plugs stained to match teak. If you pick through them, you can find some with graining that's a pretty good match. I saw some teak plugs once on ebay, I think, from a UK seller--in the proper metric sizes for Danish furniture. I've never seen them from any US retailer or distributor and I've done a lot of looking.

I think a plug cutter just cuts straight sided plugs, right? They'd probably be fine, but do get some extras made if you go this route. If you ever need to remove a straight sided plug in the future, you will most likely have to destroy it to get it out, unless it wasn't tapped in flush.

- 18 Jan 2018

@Leif - the picture I posted is of a top down view of the backrest. Since the backrest is curved, if I put longer screws in they'll likely shoot out the front of the backrest.

@Spanky - I haven't went about sourcing plugs yet, thanks for the tips. For now I'm just unsure about how to secure the backrests so they don't wiggle.

- 18 Jan 2018

..Another option might be a bit of wood filler inside the existing holes to make the screws sit tighter? If this approach is not bad, any product suggestions?

- 18 Jan 2018

@Leif (I wish we could edit comments) - I forgot to mention, my glue idea was not instead of screws but in addition to them. The screws hold the backrest, just not firmly.

- 18 Jan 2018

try sticking a wood toothpick (or two) into the hole before screwing. If not too much wood loss, the toothpicks do a nice job of filling in empty spacing, deforming as needed by the screw, to help get a tighter hold.

Doesn't work every time, but this ultra-low tech and cost fix is a good one to have in the database.

- 04 Feb 2018

After waiting out some cold weather, the first coat of oil is finally on. Looking good so far.

- 25 Feb 2018

A lot of time has passed, but this project is finally, mostly done :)

My process was:

- Murphy's oil soap with steel wool
- Light sand a few scratches with 320, though I left many of the scratches around the tops of the chair backs since they would have been difficult to sand out (character and all that)
- 3 coats of Star Brite teak oil
- 1 coat of Howards feed N wax (not sure if this was necessary, but shined things up just a little)

I haven't cleaned the chairpads, which have some dents in them. May replace these one day. I'm also still waiting for the screw plugs to arrive but otherwise the result is not bad. I think I did about as good as could be done to bring back the wood finish. I'm not thrilled but I'm satisfied. The wood grain is a bit uneven in areas and a bit more rustic looking than some newer teak chairs, but I suspect that's what this particular wood always looked like.

- 25 Feb 2018

One more comment:

I ended up filling the screw holes in the seat backs with JB weld putty and it worked EXCELLENT. That stuff is super solid. Just fill the holes to near capacity, let it dry and re-drill. The screws went in super solid with no pull outs.

- 25 Feb 2018

(With there was an edit) Exact product name I used in case anyone reads this in the future: JB Weld KwikWood. It's good stuff!

- 25 Feb 2018

They look marvelous, darling. Bravo!

Best,

Aunt Mark.

- 25 Feb 2018

Any tips on what stain to use for the oak plugs to match teak?

- 25 Feb 2018

Nice job on the chairs!

I've had to replace a LOT of teak and rosewood plugs in furniture and I've tried a bunch of different stains but nothing looked very good. Then i finally sat down with big handful of unfinished oak and maple plugs and the various Minwax stains that I'd tried before, plus some Sharpies, and just started dipping and coloring. Minwax stains don't seem to have very many pigments because the result usually looks flat and dull. Different pigments reflect light at different depths or whatever, so more is good as long as they don't muddy each other.

SO, this is the combo i worked out for oak plugs to give them a reasonably close teak color. I included an extreme closeup so you can see the grain lines i drew--they look pretty crude when magnified but at normal size and normal viewing distance, they're fine.

Sharpie used to sell a pack of four colors of tan through brown markers for furniture touchups but I think they discontinued them. A friend of mine still has a set and there is one marker in it with a tan cap that is PERFECT for most shades of teak. It's not the same color marker than Sharpie currently sells with the same color cap, though. It's little darker and less yellow.

I think i mentioned above that you can stick these plugs in place with Museum Wax if they don't fit snugly. Ace Hardware carries little jars of it.

- 25 Feb 2018

Nice! Markers beat messing with stains in my book. Thanks.

- 25 Feb 2018

Yeah, though with plugs I just plop them into the can of stain, let soak for a few minutes, then fish them out with a plastic spoon onto a rag.

- 26 Feb 2018

I have never found a source either and since most of my work is for others who aren't absolute purists, and because keeping overhead costs within reason matters (i.e., time spent tracking down someone with a lathe and some teak stock, and getting the specs just right, paying for time & labor, etc.), I spend a few minutes coloring oak plugs. Works for me!

- 26 Feb 2018

Widgetco.com has a pretty good selection of plugs, with options for diameter, head type, and wood. Not all combos are made with every wood type though. Since they are Imperial dimensions, they often require additional means (e.g. spanky's museum wax) to hold properly.

- 26 Feb 2018

Their mahogany plugs might be easier to match to teak than oak are. No teak plugs, though.

- 26 Feb 2018

Indeed a limited selection of teak: only 3/8" and 1/2" deck plugs. If too deep, those could be sanded/cut down to fit for cases that call for flush plugs.

Cherry might also be a good starting point for a plug, although you might need to let them sit for a while for the initial color change to happen before knowing how well they would match.

- 26 Feb 2018

You can always put oak or whatever plugs in for now and keep looking for teak plugs or for someone who can make you some. This is one of the most easily reversed fixes there is.

- 27 Feb 2018

My rule of thumb is if nobody else who ever sees these chairs will ever notice, then it's good enough. Will see once the oak plugs arrive, but I'm guessing we'll be safe :)

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