Full Chisel Blog

September 2, 2013

When you can’t take the chair apart…

because of nails in all of the joints.  Nails do nothing to increase the strength of the chair, but do weaken the wood where the nails were used.  This chair belongs to a friend, it was ‘unfinished’ furniture, table and chairs in oak.  Why the original manufacturer used nails is beyond my comprehension.

davis side chair1

Not being able to disassemble the chair to deal with the break or perhaps replacing it, it was necessary to repair in place.  I clamped the stretcher then cut a small mortise across the break to receive a loose tenon to strengthen the fracture.

davis side chair2

The depth of the mortise is to the end of the cross stretcher.  This is an inherently weak joint, exacerbated by the through nail weakening the joint even further.  The above picture shows the break spread open to receive hot hide glue.

I used 192 gram strength ground hide glue from Joel at Tools for Working Wood, high quality ground hide glue; 1/2 teaspoon glue, 1 teaspoon distilled water.  This is the smallest batch I make, put it in the glue pot, the pot on the stove and when the water jacket boils over, the glue is ready in minutes.

davis side chair3

I used a tourniquet and a couple of wood end cam clamps as well as a wedge of pine between the front legs to close up the fracture, not the easiest clamping job, but I accomplished the task.

Using a flat chisel I pared the excess oak away to bring the tenon down to the curve of the stretcher.  Then some shellac with yellow ocher and burnt umber to get the color match and a bit of beaumontage to optically hide the fracture and joint around the loose tenon.

davis side chair4

Cursing the inappropriate use of nails.




  1. Stephen, Am especially impressed that the repair cannot be seen at all. Excellent job of matching color and finish.

    Comment by John Pappas — September 4, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

  2. John,
    Yea, most of my work goes completely unnoticed.

    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — September 6, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  3. Hey Stephen:
    Remember going to Ft. Bridger with you many moons ago….First time we put up my tipi and you sold some old tools…I remember you met your to-be wife as she walked by our site…you yelled out something like “would you like to marry me” as an opening line…prophetic words to say the least….second time (or was it the first time, hard to remember) we put up a little lean-to and woke up to snow the next morning even though it was the first of Sept…haven’t heard from my old partner Arnold in years but assume he is still making sawdust and ashes somewhere…peace to you and yours…

    Comment by Rob Cole — October 7, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

  4. Hey Rob,
    Good to hear from you. I think Arnold is up in the Pacific Northwest. We should get together for coffee. Give me a call 801-455-8659


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 8, 2013 @ 7:47 am

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