Introduction: Repair a Dining Room Chair

This Instructable details how to repair a dining room chair when it has been broken by someone leaning back on the hind legs. It's common for some folks after having a delicious dinner to lean back in the dining room chair on the hind legs. Most of the time the hind legs of the chair can handle the strain and the diner gets the rewarding thrill of balancing on two legs until the chair top rests comfortably against the wall. But sometimes the weight of the satisfied diner whose just consumed a full supper combines with a chair that has been poorly repaired once before and the result is...


And so we now have a new project.

The first step is to get the parts in a work area and up on a comfortable work surface.

Step 1: Remove Old Glue

As you can see from the pictures, this chair has been repaired once before (at least). The old glue which has dried into thick chunks at the joints tells us this is not the way it came from the factory. This particular chair has two struts or stringers under the seat to help hold the chair seat to the chair back. In this case, the screws have been pulled completely out from the chair back.

Step 2: Remove the Screws

Since the screws have been pulled from the their fastening points on the chair, we'll have to use 4 slightly thicker screws. These particular screws have a square hole in the head and require a special bit to safely remove them. I had some decking screws which have the same square hole and the square driver bit comes in the box with the screws. You can buy the bit separately from Home Depot or Lowe's Home Improvement if needed (it's really cheap!) I put the bit in my power screw driver and got all four out without any problems.

Step 3: Sand and Prepare the Mating Surfaces

This is probably the most crucial step and one many people skip trying to hurry the repair. It's very important to remove as much of the old glue as possible. I actually used a small flat head screwdriver and carefully (very carefully!) chipped off the old glue. Once I got as much glue off as I could, it was time to begin sanding. It could be done by hand and some tight spots required this but I used an electric "mouse" sander. These little guys are great and I heartily recommend adding one to your tool box if don't have one already. The pointy tip is perfect for getting into tight spots and gives you full control as well as a very smooth finish!

Step 4: Use Slightly Over-sized Screws

Since the original screws were torn from their mountings they would not make for a strong joint if we use them again. So I went down to Home Depot with one of the original screws and carefully matched the length to a slightly thicker screw. It's important the length of the new screws are the same (or as close as you can get) to the length of the original screws since these will screw into the back of the chair and we don't want any screw tips poking out the back of the chair. Also don't choose a screw a whole lot thicker than the original ones as it could split the hardwood the chair is made of. Just slightly thicker will do just fine, we're just trying to make the screw bite securely into the wood. Also, I chose regular Phillips (or sometimes called "plus") head screws and since these screws are out of sight under the chair the silver color would not be noticeable.

Step 5: Test Fit the Pieces and Partially Screw in the New Screws

Now it's time to test fit the pieces together and give it a visual inspection to be sure it looks like a tight fit. The idea is to be sure the wood surfaces we will be gluing together soon fit as snug as we can get them. If you notice spots that don't seem to be flush, sand more off when you take the pieces apart.

Also, this is the perfect time to set the screws partially in to the wood. Screw the screws into the wood until you just see the tips poking out then back them out just until the tips disappear. That will prevent them from snagging on the wood surfaces when you put them together with glue on them.

Step 6: Glue and Clamp the Pieces

Use a strong wood glue such as Elmer's carpenter wood glue or something similar (some folks call this yellow glue). You want to get glue on both mating surfaces before you try to put it together. Now get a paper towel and wet it with some water, squeeze out the excess and keep it handy, you'll need it.

I had an assistant (my wife, thanks dear!) help me line the parts up and then I gently but firmly tapped them together with a rubber mallet (do NOT use a steel hammer or mallet as it will mark the finish on the chair!).

Once it's firmly back together, finish screwing the screws in (power driver makes this SO much easier and faster than screwing it in by hand) and set clamps on each of the two corners where the back joins the seat.

Now's where we take that wet paper towel and carefully wipe off any excess glue. Wood glue such as this is water soluble as long as it hasn't set yet. Once it does set, it's really tough to get off so get as much off of the areas that show as you can. The underside of the chair is not so critical but it's always good to be as neat as you can.

Step 7: Set It Aside for at Least 24 Hours

The final step is to set the chair aside for at least 24 hours to allow the glue to dry(cure) completely. Once the time has passed, it's time to put the chair in the back of the pick-up and take it back to your son and daughter-in-law's home and try it out. Mmmmm... is that a baked chicken dinner I smell!!!

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