Once people know that you do woodworking, they probably ask you if you can fix broken furniture, like a furniture leg repair that recently came into George’s shop. While every repair is different, here are some tips that will help you the next time a repair comes into your shop.
Them’s the breaks
Your first step will be to check the break to determine if the pieces will readily come back together. This is affected by the type of wood you’re working with, how the break happened, and whether or not you have all the pieces. This is the first go-no go point of the repair.
It’s not uncommon to run into unique clamping scenarios on furniture repairs. It’s not the same as assembling a brand new piece of furniture that you’ve just built. You may have irregular surfaces, and you need to be very careful that the clamps don’t damage finished surfaces. You may be surprised by the clamping device we used on our furniture leg repair. Once you know the repair will work, and you have an effective clamping strategy, you can put things together.
Once the glue is dry and the clamps removed, you’ll need to do some clean up. Some repairs may require sanding to “feather” the parts together. You may also need to do some stain and top coat matching.
Looking for more information on furniture repairs? Chairs, thanks to the abuse they take, are common items for repair. We’ve got some great strategies for chair repair. Looking at a piece of furniture whose veneer is shot? Furniture repair of veneered pieces is unique, requiring its own strategies.
As an additional strengthening of this joint I like to use a cheap drill bit to make a steel rod drilled in a diagonally to the grain of the wood. To do. this I chuck a steel bit (I would suggest a bit about 3/32” for this size leg) in a drill & bore into the repaired leg to distance slightly less than than the thickness of the leg. Back this out about 1/8”, cut the bit off about 1/16” from the surface. Then drive the bit back into the leg with a pin punch,so it is embedded about 1/16” below the surface. Fill the hole with a stainable wood putty. After sanding, stain to match and refinish. Result is a greatly strengthened repair.
Would have been nice to see the refinishing process – how you matched the color and blended in the final top coats. Also would have liked to see how the finished repair turned out.
George, this is an all too common occurrence on these cabriole legs. On a small table or stand just gluing them up will work just fine. (The glue joint may even be stronger then the wood.) In our shop, rather than a dowel, we will drill for a steel rod (extra long drill bit) after we’ve done the glue up rather than just a dowel on a chair or dining table for extra re-enforcement.
Two question: Will the repaired leg be able to perform like the other legs on that piece of furniture? How do you fill in where there is missing wood?
Hi, Thomas. The repair that George made on the leg in this video appeared to have good intact mating surfaces and is likely to be quite strong;”good enough” to hold up for many years. Is it as strong as the other legs? Probably not, but success here is binary; will it hold up or break again? The degree of strength depends on how clean the break is, and how much time has lapsed between the break and the repair. The longer it sits, the more exposure it has to dirt, and the pores will tend to close up, making glue penetration a bit more difficult. But, the most important attribute that will determine strength is whether there is good alignment of the parts that are being glued, which is mainly a factor of having all of the parts, and taking good care of them between the time of the break and the repair. If there is missing wood, the way to handle that depends on how much wood is missing. If the the joint is predominately intact and there is a piece missing that makes it visually necessary to replace, such as a chip, then I would use wood filler. If there was enough wood missing that it calls into question the structural integrity of the joint, then my tendency would be to make a clean cut in the leg at a 90 degree angle to the leg, and fabricate a duplicate of the missing part by using one of the other legs as a reference. I would use a dowel to reinforce this joint because you would have an end grain to end grain joint which would not be as strong as I’d want on a leg.