Rocking chair repair - novice needs advice please - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Rocking chair repair - novice needs advice please

Hi everyone,

I was given a rocking chair that I was told is 55 yrs old. My relative purchased it for me, used, but didn't notice some damage. It is perfect for me in size and shape, but I'm worried about these weaknesses.

Could you give me your thoughts on how to repair this?

I'm a novice, small woman, few repair type tools. However, I've refinished several pieces in my lifetime and do like to rescue worthy things.

When I rock in it, I hear a constant squeak. That's when I noticed the damage - see pics - the spindle on one side of the chair is coming loose AND the wood at the header (right word?) of the chair is actually breaking off in a chunk. Each time I rock, that segment is getting pressure, and I can feel it move slightly. :-( I know that's bad.

My b/f saw the same pics I'm posting for you and suggested I must use screws to bring this back to good strength again. That would look pretty tacky, so I'm hoping he's wrong.

Here are the pics of the back portion -








And here is one of the runner - which looks like it must have been glued together at one point - it feels strong - but looks ugly. My b/f said I should put screws in it too for structural strength.



Here's a pic the seller had posted of the chair:

Last edited by LML; 11-16-2012 at 09:30 PM. Reason: typos
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post #2 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 10:01 PM
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I heard that when they build those they intentionally make them squeak to help sooth a baby when rocking in it. As far as repairing it I would gently separate the crack with out making it worse and get some wood glue in it. There are a couple ways of doing this. One is to squirt some wood glue on the crack and use a can of compressed air and spray it into the crack. (Can be messy) Another option is to use dental floss instead of the air and draw the glue into the crack. Once the glue is in the crack then clamp it. Use some cardboard or towels or something in between the clamp and the chair so that the clamp doesn't damage the chair.

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post #3 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your advice. You're the second person to advocate that approach. (My b/f keeps telling me the only solution involves screws, so I was eager for more opinions.)

The squeak is actually coming right from that broken area, but that's interesting about building in squeaks. Who'd have known?
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post #4 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 10:10 PM
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Hey LML,

Let me be the first to state that your b/f is wrong. If he is wrong about putting screws in a chair to repair it, what else could he be wrong about? I'm just sayin' you might want to ditch the b/f and keep the chair. Never trust a b/f who wants to repair a chair with screws.

Nothing that you have show us indicates that the chair should be gotten rid of. You are correct though, it should be repaired if you really want to keep it.

The splitting of the arms is a fairly simple fix -- a little yellow glue and some clamps and you will be good to go. The trick is to get the glue where you need it. A glue syringe would due nicely.

It may be that the rung that is immediately below the split is loose and needs to be glued as well. If that is the case, you will not be able to use yellow glue (yellow glue does not stick to previously glued parts) and would need to use epoxy, and of course, clams to tighten it and hold it.

If the rung in the picture needs to be glued, you will have a bit of a hectic repair -- most likely both the split and the rung would have to be repaired at the same time, using two different glues.

Yellow glue will not really stick to previously finished wood, so making a mess is bit less of a concern. Epoxy on the other hand will pretty much stick to everything and make a big mess. Have care if you use epoxy. you can protect the finish by using blue painters tape to mask off areas around your fixes. Just pull it off when you are done and nothing to worry about.

If the repair of the runner as pictured is structurally sound, there is no need to repair it and nothing really to be gained by using screws. Man, that b/f likes screws, huh? If it is not structurally sound, again your best bet is epoxy.

I would not worry about a creaking rocking chair. In my opinion, that is part of the charm of an antique. However, if this isn''t your concept of a relaxing rocking experience, you will have to check all the joints to identify which ones are loose and in need of re gluing or repair.

Good luck and I think that it is great that you are jumping in on the chair repair project

Greg

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post #5 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 10:30 PM
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My repair for the back (ear) and the spindle into it would first be to invert the chair (upside down). Use Titebond II or III, and squeeze the glue into the crack. Push the glue into the crack with your finger and keep applying until no more goes in. The spindle looks clean, so do it the same way. Clamp up the ear and the spindle to the back independently. Make sure the spindle seats into the mortise.

Don't try to clean out the crack or the mortise, as you could dislodge debris that would keep the parts apart. After clamping, clean up squeezed out, extra glue with a damp rag (water).

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post #6 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 11:03 PM
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Be careful about putting any glue in or around the crack/split before you know how you are going to get it well clamped.
Always be sure your clamping system is ready and works before you start.
The split will recur unless your repair is better than the chair was before.
You probably should get help from a skilled woodworker or a furniture repair shop, specialist. Bad repairs are worse to fix than the original problem.
If it was a valuable piece, I might even take the top priece off to properly prep and glue the piece on. Old chair makers used hide glue or glue that was meant to loosen for repairs. 55 years may not be old enough.
Anyway get help. If you do have to do it yourself, be sure you can pull the crack tight with your clamps before you do it with glue. One type of clamping might be to put wax paper or a plastic bag around the rung then wind tight stretchy cord (like nylon) around the top 10-20 times to pull and hold the pieces together. Put a small stick with a notch on the corner to concentrate the forces. The rungs may be pushing the split apart so the clamps will stay on for 24 hours at least.
I couldn't tell what the 2nd crack was about it looks easier.
You may need experienced help to clean up and repair the finish.
Good luck
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post #7 of 19 Old 11-16-2012, 11:43 PM Thread Starter
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What great replies. Thank you all.

I am concerned with messing up a reasonably nice chair, so I'm going to give thought to whether I should tackle this myself. My initial thought is that if it was a valuable piece, the maker would have sanded the bottom side of the seat as nicely as the top. The bottom is on the coarse side. Then again, I suspect this might be solid hardwood. I don't think it's pine, I can't dent it with a fingernail. I'm wondering if the finish is shellac, the way it aged, and the fact that some of the reddish coloring rubbed off when I touched it with a kleenex and a little hand lotion . So, although it may not be valuable, I still like to be respectful of my things, and wasting anything would annoy me.

I'm going to have to read through each of your replies a few more times to really digest this concept. I'll ask more after I decide how brave and lucky I feel.

As for the screws, well, let's just say I'm relieved they aren't needed!
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post #8 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 12:00 AM
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From what I can see from the pictures it is beyond amateur repair. Where the spindle meets the back appears to have been broken and glued before and not clamped. If this has been glued before it can't be successfully glued again because the glue that is there has sealed the wood. If it back hasn't been glued before then the back should be removed and the piece glued separately. Once the glue has dried then the back can be reglued with epoxy glue. Wood glues don't work for a re-glue because the old glue seals the wood.

The rocker should not squeak. It's a sign that the glue joints are loose. More than likely the entire rocker needs to be unassembled and reglued.

Whoever reglued the rocker allowed the parts to slide so their not in proper alignment. It may or may not hold. The only way to depend on it would be to cut that part of the rocker off and replace it with new wood. Screws will only make it weaker.
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post #9 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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Oh, gosh. Well, this is looking less safe for me to attempt. :-(

I know this is a question that pros everywhere will balk at answering - but what ballpark figure might I hear from a professional for doing this repair? (I'm in the Great Lakes - 45 mins from a big city.)
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post #10 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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PS: On further examination, I see the glue. Rats!

At the back of the chair, at the top of the spindle, there is a thick rim of dried glue. That seems actually to be making that spindle too wide to even shove back in the mortise. I couldn't figure out what was preventing it before. Rats! and Double rats!

I'm so frustrated now. I feel like that seller duped my relative. Return isn't possible.

So frustrating.

Last edited by LML; 11-17-2012 at 12:38 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #11 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 12:48 AM Thread Starter
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How do some people sleep at night?
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post #12 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by LML View Post
Oh, gosh. Well, this is looking less safe for me to attempt. :-(

I know this is a question that pros everywhere will balk at answering - but what ballpark figure might I hear from a professional for doing this repair? (I'm in the Great Lakes - 45 mins from a big city.)
Well that just goes with the repair business. You often have to spend more time trying to undo someone else’s repair work then to fix it right. Most people don't have any clamps. Something is broke they smear some glue on it and put a piece of tape on it to hold it or worse, fill it full of nails.

I know prices are different in different parts of the country. I'm in Dallas. If you brought it to me I would charge $150.00 to disassembly and reglue the rocker and replace the broken parts including finishing. Had the back and rocker been a fresh break without being repaired I could have fixed it for $60.00.
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post #13 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 01:18 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the honest info, Steve. I believe the time and effort are worth the fees. It looks like a lot of work.

Sadly, I won't be able to send this for repairs, so I guess I now own a broken rocker that will stay broken.

Thanks for the help everyone.
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post #14 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by LML View Post
Thanks for the honest info, Steve. I believe the time and effort are worth the fees. It looks like a lot of work.

Sadly, I won't be able to send this for repairs, so I guess I now own a broken rocker that will stay broken.

Thanks for the help everyone.
You may not have to live with the chair as is. Under any circumstance, removing the entire top back piece or disassembling the chair for a fix will likely not allow reassembly very well. Since you discovered the parts were reglued at one time, a two part epoxy is what would be used. The cleanup would have to be done with acetone, and that would remove any finish and stain if there is one.

If you can do that, your final part of the repair would be to refinish any visible defects, like the repair to the crack. That may be a bit of a challenge, but if you've done any fixes or repairs in the past, it may take some filling, sanding , staining and a touch up of a topcoat.

Since you think you are committed to living with it as is, you could go ahead with the repair. Or, if the chair has some importance to you, take it to a repair shop and get an estimate. You already have some investment in it. If the repair shop wants to charge you for complete disassembly, find another shop.

I will say though that the chair isn't one of those collectible antiques, and you could replace it with one very similar for what time, effort, and money you could have in this one.





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post #15 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 09:35 AM
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Thanks for the honest info, Steve. I believe the time and effort are worth the fees. It looks like a lot of work.

Sadly, I won't be able to send this for repairs, so I guess I now own a broken rocker that will stay broken.

Thanks for the help everyone.
Rather than not repairing the rocker at all I would go ahead and glue it. I would take the back off so you can clean everything up better. Also trying to glue the chunk back on with the spindle in the hole it will resist clamping completely down. I would go ahead and break the chunk off and with something like a ice pick scrape as much of the old glue off as you can. Keep dry fitting the chunk back on until you get a good fit. To glue it back on you will probably only need a c-clamp and a couple of blocks of soft scrap wood. The blocks are to protect the wood from the pressure the clamp will have. The block you put on the chunk will need to be covered with plastic wrap or package sealing tape to keep from gluing the block to the rocker. Any way with a slow set two part epoxy glue, glue the chunk into place and clamp it. Watch for it to slip or can go out of alignment like the rocker did. Sometimes you have to clamp a piece like that up and squeeze the excess glue out and take the clamp off and readjust the alignment and clamp it back. Anyway with the blocks in place you can't really clean the excess glue off. After it has thoroughly dried I would take a drill and drill out all of the holes on the back cleaning out the old glue in each hole. This will make re-assembly much easier. Then the spindles where they go into the back I would take a utility knife and scrape off any glue which may be built up on them. Now that you have the back ready to assembly back on the rocker you might recruit some help to get it back on so you can work faster and don't have glue dripping all over everything. You should use the same epoxy glue and it gets really messy. Once you get all the spindles started in you can use a rubber mallet to tap the back on. It is very likely you will have to use pipe clamps to get the top rail pressed into the correct position so pad the top rail with soft wood or a rag folded over several times to protect the wood. As far as the rocker, I would probably leave it alone until it shows some sign of failing. The only problem is it will probably be fine until it snaps suddenly letting the rocker roll over.

Normally when you have a few joints loose and squeaking, the joints on the entire rocker are failing and I recommend a total reglue which involves completely disassembling the entire rocker and reglue it with epoxy. If you do a partial reglue then in six months when other joints get loose it's harder to disassemble the rocker to address those joints. While apart the section of the back with the broken chunk since it has been reglued I would have cut that part off and replace it with new wood. I would have done the same thing with the rocker to be sure it had a good joint.
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post #16 of 19 Old 11-17-2012, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you both, Steve and Cabinetman, for going above and beyond in helping me understand how you'd tackle this. It really helps a great deal.

And, you're right, I may as well do SOMETHING. It isn't worthy of antique roadshow anyway. The money saved will be better reserved for a nicer rocker one day in the future. (Rockers do help with bad backs, I can attest to that.)

Thanks again for all the clear directions and encouragement.

Last edited by LML; 11-17-2012 at 09:29 PM. Reason: correction - I didn't mean custom rocker - just a nicer rocker
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post #17 of 19 Old 11-18-2012, 06:10 AM
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And, you're right, I may as well do SOMETHING. It isn't worthy of antique roadshow anyway. The money saved will be better reserved for a nicer rocker one day in the future. (Rockers do help with bad backs, I can attest to that.)

Thanks again for all the clear directions and encouragement.
The fix could be a fun project or futile frustration. This type of project can be trying for someone that has experience with the ins and outs of chair dynamics. With as many repairs I've done, I try to remove the least amount of parts as possible. To suggest you disassemble the entire chair, or major structural parts might just leave you with firewood. Assuming this chair is a production chair, removing spindles and reshaping or cleaning the tenon ends, and then reinstalling them would be tedious for a beginner, and it still is for a competent woodworker.

I'm not saying you can't do it, as we would be here to give you advice along the way. Just being to the point, we can give you procedural advice, but it's your hands and your perseverance that will make the difference. I would start with the simplest of steps and procedures.

I've built chairs from scratch with no formal plans other than the ones I draw up, and have done many repairs. Even with that amount of experience I ran across a challenge that I though would be a snap to pull off. My shop being in an industrial district, anything can be found in or next to dumpsters. Leaving the shop one day driving past this pile of junk sat this Mahogany rocking chair...in pieces. The bottom parts were broken or loose, but all the parts were there (I thought), next to the chair.

I couldn't let this chair go to the dump. If there was a way of restoring it, I was destined to do it. I picked up all the parts, and stored them in the loft at the shop until I had time to fool with it. A couple of years went by and when moving shops, decided it was time to evaluate it.

The individual parts that were cracked or missing were repaired. Some spindles had to be turned and fitted. Assembly and refinish was done in spare time. It turned out to be a success. If I hadn't thought I would give it a try, it would have been picked up with the rest of the trash. This is a great rocker, and it has a new life.
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post #18 of 19 Old 11-18-2012, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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What a beautiful old rocker - and even better was how it got a second chance.

To be honest, I have other projects that also await me getting back to them. I picked up two very ancient wooden chairs when I was in my 20s, stripped them with 91% alcohol and steel wool (old finish came off easy like butter with that) - sanded then refinished them. (How is it possible that was 20 yrs ago!) They await - yet - for me to get a steam tool to take out the splines in the seat and give them new sheet caning material. Two other chairs have been waiting almost as long to begin the process. I found a very old small oak table to go with them - but my mother stole it after I had begun cleaning it up when she saw how cute it was (before it got stained etc.) and I have to find a way to steal my own table back. So ... if I can learn anything on this rocking chair, it would help with my other chairs as well (and my table if I can get her to relinquish!)

I don't have the ability to be a real woodworker, but I can do the above sort of stuff, as long as the strippers, and finishes I choose are not irritating to me health-wise. The repair on the rocker is deeper than I ever intended to go - but should be ... educational ... or ... make me say bad words.

By the way - I was looking at that glue again. There is only one tiny ring of glue [EDIT: quarter ring - it only goes part way around the spindle] at the top of that spindle. Could that be the original glue used when the chair was made? There is absolutely NO glue inside of that crack / crevice / split - nor can I see any glue in the mortise (as far as I can see with the spindle in the way). If it's the original glue, that would change my plans a little bit. I checked about the squeaking and the ONLY sound comes from that damaged area - no other areas squeak.

Last edited by LML; 11-18-2012 at 04:15 PM.
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post #19 of 19 Old 11-18-2012, 05:53 PM
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By the way - I was looking at that glue again. There is only one tiny ring of glue [EDIT: quarter ring - it only goes part way around the spindle] at the top of that spindle. Could that be the original glue used when the chair was made? There is absolutely NO glue inside of that crack / crevice / split - nor can I see any glue in the mortise (as far as I can see with the spindle in the way). If it's the original glue, that would change my plans a little bit. I checked about the squeaking and the ONLY sound comes from that damaged area - no other areas squeak.
It would be hard to tell if there is evidence of old glue. When in doubt, I use a two part epoxy. It will work in most all situations, and it's the glue to use if there is gaps in the fit. It's just a pain to clean up.





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