Repairing & Restoring Dining Chairs

Recently I made a couple of desks as a commission for a client, and when I was delivering those to his home, he mentioned he had some solid beech dining chairs that were in need of repair.  There were 6 in total but initially I just took 4 of them away, and in this video I'm going to be showing how I repaired and re-finished them.
The main problem with these chairs, as you can see is that joints are loose, so the chairs had quite a bit of movement in them.  
When I lifted the seat pad out, I found there was another problem - the corner brackets which should provide extra support to the chair frame were really badly fitted, there were some big gaps - I'm assuming what might have happened here is that the end of each bracket was cut at 45 degrees, but when the chairs were assembled, before the brackets were fitted, maybe the chair frame was slightly skewed, maybe half a degree off or something, and rather than fitting the brackets properly to the inside of the frame to get nice tight glue joints for maximum strength, it looks like they just glued and screwed them on without worrying about the gaps, and I think that's what caused these glue joints to fail. 
I wasn't sure how long it would take me to repair the chairs, so what I agreed with the client was that I'd repair one chair, time how long it took, and then I could price up the job to repair all of them based on that.  And I'll talk more about how long that was at the end of the video.
I first took the chair in to the workshop and started to remove the corner brackets. Some of them needed a few taps with a mallet and there was a bit of grain tear out.
Others came off easily because the glue joints had completely failed so it was just the screws holding them in place.
The dowels rails at the bottom of the chair still seemed really solid, but these would have to come apart with the rest of the frame and be re-glued anyway.
I used my mallet to break the mortice and tenon joints then I could wiggle each piece free.
I re-configured one of my clamps as a spreader clamp and that helped to break some of the glue joints too.
And I marked up each part of the chair to help me with putting everything back together later
With all the parts disassmbled, this is where I found some problems.  Some of the mortices were cut really badly - like here where it looks like someone slipped with the router at the end of the cut.
And here, where I really don't know what happened but the mortice was much much longer than the tenon, and I couldn't quite believe that whoever made those chairs left the joinery like this, without either re-making the pieces or at least plugging the gaps with some wood.  These loose joints probably contributed to the chair frames failing, and I knew I'd need to find a way to sort this problem which I'll get around to later on in the project.
I found that putting the chair frame in the vise gave me a bit of extra leverage to wiggle the dowels free.
Then I started to clean off all of the old glue.  And this was the trickiest and most time consuming part of the job, because it was important to get all of the old glue off to get to bear wood so that the new glue would adhere properly to the wood, but to not scrape away much wood because the joints would still need to be tight to get good tight glue joints.  I used a combination of tools for scraping the old glue away, here I'm using an old chisel, and then I did some light sanding 
To sand the inside of the mortices I wrapped the sandpaper around a pencil.  Again I'm being careful here to remove the old glue but not sand away any wood.
The backrest of the chair seemed really solid, so I decided not to try to dismante the bottom of the chair without taking that apart, 
Using the spreader clamp again I could spread apart the bottom of the chair and I found that there was enough flex in the wood to allow me to take out the back rail, and clean out the old glue from the mortices.
For the tenons at the end of the chair rails, I used a stanley knife blade to remove the old glue.
And then I used an old chisel to clean up the shoulders of the joint.
The end of the dowels also got scraped and sanded, and I used a narrow chisel to remove the glue from the mortices.
After doig a quick dry fit to make sure that the pieces fitted together nicel, I could then apply fresh glue to the joints
And then I removed the spreader clamp.
And I added some F clamps to clamp up the back of the chair.
I wiped away excess glue squeezing from the joints with a damp cloth.
Then I started to re-assemble the front of the chair
And here you'll see I am clamping the dowel in first which wasn't really the best idea because the holes for the dowels had been drilled deeper than necessary which meant that I later had to back off the clamping pressure from the doweled part of the frame and concentrate the clamping force on the mortice and tenoned rails instead.  I used my speed square to get everything squared up, and I had to use a bit of mallet persuasion to get the corners at 90 degrees.
Next I needed to start working on those badly cut mortices.
For the mortice that had been cut too long I decided I'd use some scrap wood to plug the gaps.
I first offered up the tenon and made some pencil marks to indicate where I'd need to add some wood.
I measured the mortice with my calipers and then went hunting for a piece of wood I could use that was close to being the right size and I found a pieec of oak I could use.
I cut off a piece to length with my handsaw 
And then buy putting my handplane in to a vise I could refine the thickness of the piece.  I had to be careful here to keep my fingers away from the sharp cutting edge.  And after a few passes the piece of oak fitted the mortice quite nicely.
I then used my disc sander to round over the end just by eye so that it would fit inside the mortice.
I did a fry fit and found I needed to take a bit more off the length which I marked up and then shaped at the disc sander again
I could then glue it in place, and it was a pretty good friction fit, but I did need to use a nail punch just to force the roundover in place.
I then used a narrow chisel to carve out a concave arc for the tenon to fit.
I kept offering up the tenon to make sure the shape was good.
Next I needed to plug the other end of the mortice, and for that I shaped another piece and cut it to size at the bandsaw, and here I'm using a clamp to hold the workpiece to keep my fingers away from the blade. That got glued in place too and held with a clamp until the glue set.
I could then add new new glue and this is how the joint looked once plugged.  This joint should now be stronger than ever, as not only is there more wood to support the tenon, but the way that the plug was glued in would also offer extra gluing surface where the side grain of the tenon meets the side grain of the plug.
I started assembling the rest of the chair frame
And then I could add the back of the chair which I clamped up earlier to the rest of the frame.
Again I used my speed square to make sure everything was square, or at least close enough for the eye not to notice.
One of the dowels must have had a void inside, and some open grain, because the glue was oozing out.
For the other bad mortice joint, rather than plugging the hole, I just mixed up some epoxy resin and added that once the chair frame was assembled - that will fill the gap and also provide extra glue strength to re-enforce the joint.
WIth the chair frame assembled, I could start working on the corner brackets. I first cleaned off the old glue and any grain tear out at the disc sander.
Then I offered them up to the corners and used a pencil to mark up where material needed to be removed to get a perfect fit.  And I did this with each bracket, on each corner, on all of the chairs. So there were 4 on each of the 6 chairs, so 28 of these in total to be done!
I added fresh glue, drilled new pilot holes and then added some screws.
The chairs had some wear and tear and dents on them, particularly on the legs, and the finish was also quite dry in places, so I asked the client if he wanted me to give them a bit of a freshen up while I had them - and he said yes please, so I did a bit of sanding with some 120 grit to smooth everything over and then applied some of my home-made wax finish, which by the way is available to buy online at my Etsy store, link in the description box.  This rejuvenated the wood really nicely and made it nice and smooth to the touch.
I used another clean cloth to remove any excess wax immediately after putting it on.
As the chairs had been re-glued, the final thing I wanted to do was to place the chair on a flat surface, and I used my tablesaw for that, to check for wobble.
And as you can see this chair had maybe a couple of mm of wobble, so held the chair legs that needed to be shortened up against the disc sander to take away some of the material until the chair sat on the flat surface with no wobble.
And I waxed the bottom of the legs too.
Eventually I got all 6 of the chairs repaired, and there were many more bad mortices on those too which I needed to find a way to plug, like this one for example. For this one I filled the hole with a piece of 12mm dowel so at least that one was an easy fix.
So I mentioned at the start of the video that I wasn't sure how long the chair repairs would take so I didn't know what to quote the client.  When I repaired the first chair it took me about 3 hours, so I figured that if I worked on two or three at the same time I could probably repair three chairs in a day, so the cost I quoted to the client was my day rate divided by three - and that was the cost per chair.  So as there were 6 chairs, that was two days work.  I think worked out about right.
It wasn't particularly enjoyable work to be honest, scraping old glue away is not a nice job and that's what took most of the time with these repairs.  But as I'm now doing this sort of work for 3 days a week having recently dropped hours at my day job to 3 days a week too, this kind of work will help to pay the bills, and being in the shed doing this kind of thing with my music or a good podcast on, working for myself and with only my cat for company suits me just fine, so I can't complain.
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