Repair Before You Buy


Even the most well-built pieces of furniture will eventually break or need some repair work.

I can barely go a week without seeing a chair or side table out on a curb that has some minor problem that could easily be fixed with a little effort. Luckily, some handy person will stop and pick up these pieces and fix them up. If not, they’re destined for the landfill, and the former owner will be out who knows how much money to replace the furniture.

Stop the trash mentality and start the fix mentality!

There’s no way I could list exact details on how to repair wood furniture, but I can provide a few tips.

Save the broken parts. In many instances you (or a woodworker friend with more skill than you) can reassemble various pieces and parts. This is obviously a case-by-case situation, but what you might consider a lost cause could very well be fixable. Even if you pay someone to fix the furniture, it will help a great deal to have all the parts. I recently was able to reassemble a curved part of a chair by putting together the broken parts almost like a jigsaw puzzle. The chair was saved, and the complex pattern for the part didn’t have to be replicated.

Use wood glue. I prefer Titebond, and especially Titebond III for repairs. It has a long open time, which is very important during repairs, as they most likely require a lot of special fitting and/or clamping. Do not use something like Gorilla Glue. Yes, a lot of people advocate using it for furniture repairs, but I can’t tell you how many people I know who have applied it incorrectly and had huge messes on their hands. The biggest problem? Expansion.

Keep wood filler and wood putty on hand. You’ll need these to fill small seams, cracks or nail holes.

Have clamps handy. And a wide variety, from C-clamps to bar clamps to strap clamps. You may need every kind you have just for one little repair.

Use sanding sponges. You’ll be able to sand small detail areas.

Invest in dowels. I see a lot of failed dowel joinery on older pieces (especially chairs). Sometimes you can removed the broken/damages dowels and replace them.

Invest in a pocket hole jig. A couple of pocket hole screws on a rail will probably be stronger than the original joinery.

Think creatively and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Hey, what’s the worst that could happen – ruin the piece? You were already thinking about tossing it, so go for a unique fix. Or, convert the piece of furniture into something different. The back assembly breaks on a chair? Add some casters to the legs and make a utility stool out of it.

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Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My sentiments exactly. I hate to hear of people trashing perfectly good old piece of furniture when it only needs a little tlc. I am repairing an old golden oak smoking stand right now that really doesn’t need that much to make it “new” again!


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