Mending a Wobbly Chair

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To fix a wobbly chair depends very much upon the way in which it is constructed. The construction determines whether this can be fixed. This article is about fixing a wobbly chair and covers the different aspects which may be encountered in the quest to stop that chair from wobbling for ever. A chair may be wobbly because of faulty manufacture or through wear and tear although it is never too late to take the job in hand and fix it.

* Unevenness of floor area

* Checking the chair level at base

* Types of chairs

* Checking the joints where they meet the seat

* Rectifying uneven legs

* Fixing joints

Unevenness of floor area

Often this overlooked, but the reason why a chair may be wobbling is that it is placed on an uneven floor. This can be rectified if you wish to keep that chair in the same place by simple adjustment of the leg lengths as described below. The problem with this is that if you wish to move the chair, the problem will re-occur. Temporary measures are much more satisfactory and you can purchase padding for the leg which is shorter, which can be removed at a later time.

Checking the chair level at base

Stand the chair on a table so that you have a clear view of the leg area. The examination of the chair is relatively simple. Turn the chair until the offending leg which is not touching the base is next to you. You will be able to see a gap between the table and the leg in question. Find a slip of wood which is of similar thickness and place this under the faulty leg. Any solid object of similar thickness will do the job. Find another piece of exactly the same size as the piece put under the leg. Lay this next to each leg in turn and mark a line across the leg with a pencil.

To perform this the mark should be made at the outside edge of the chair. The reason for this is that it gives you the exact measurement and angle which needs to be cut from those legs to give an even sit to the chair. This procedure is of course only useful on wooden chairs.

If the chair in question is an antique, it is worthwhile asking advice from specialists before attempting to rectify the wobble, as any work you do may detract from the value of the chair from an antique perspective.

Types of chairs

Different types of chairs have different kind of joints. What one needs to think about if a repair is required at the seat level is what the original construction of the chair consists of. Modern dining room furniture for example is often upholstered on a framework which holds the legs in place. Through tenons are used for some chairs, which means that the leg is held in place by placing a slit in the top of the leg which is widened by the insertion of a wedge. Hidden wedge tenons are popular in good quality items. This is where the same method is employed, though where the wedge is hidden within the hole which takes the leg itself.

Checking the joints where they meet the seat

These joints come loose often because the chair is placed in either damp or over-heated conditions, causing expansion or contraction of the joints. If any of these are loose, they will need to be re-fixed, as explained in the section below for fixing joints. While examining the chair, try to move the legs to see if there is any wobble in this area, as this will dictate the kind of repair which is required.

Rectifying uneven legs

If the wobble emanates from uneven legs alone, and the joints are firmly in place, use the markings made with a pencil to cut the legs to the required length. Bear in mind that a saw has a saw width and that this should be added to the length marked, or the line drawn adhered to during the cutting process.

Rub down the legs which have been cut, and try them for wobble, correctly any wobble left. Then stain the ends the same as the rest of the chair.

Fixing joints

Joints between legs and stretchers.

These joints often work loose, though if you have to also fix other joints, perform this at the same time. Where each stretcher fits between the legs, clean the ends of the loose stretches, and use Chair Doctor or equivalent product, which expands in the hole and allows a tight fit. Move the pieces into the desired position and if possible clamp them to keep them in place. Place the syringe of product into the gaps and ensure that it fills any space. Leave to dry and never attempt to sit on chairs while in the drying process.

Through tenons

A through tenon is created by putting a slit into the top of a chair leg and then inserting a wedge of wood and tapping this into place to expand the joint and make it solid. Often these are on older chairs, and should never be attempted on valuable antiques. If this joint is loose, carefully remove the leg. Take out the wedge and make a new one a little bit bigger than the existing one. Clean the whole area to be refitted.

Put the leg into place, and be careful to clamp it so that the angle chosen is correct. Put the wedge into the slit at the top of the leg and drive it home. You may have a little bit of trimming to do at the end of the job, though this is normal. When fixing through tenons, if you choose to use wood glue, make sure all excess is removed, since this may show in the finish if you are not careful at this stage.

Hidden wedge tenons

These are harder to get out of the hole. The wedge may be insufficient to hold the leg in place and a slightly larger wedge should be made. Put the wedge into the slit, having cleaned up the end of the leg. Place this into the hole, and add a little wood glue. Tap the leg gently into place, so that the wedge expands the end of the leg and secures its fitting.

Frame based chairs

Where a frame is used and legs attached to it, take the joints apart, and re-glue the. What will have happened here is poorly put together furniture wearing because of use. Often factory made furniture is mass produced and the joints simply stapled. In this case, ensure that the glue you use if of good quality and you can use Chair Doctor to fill any gaps left when the joints are in place.

Work your way around the chair deciding which joints need attention and always clamp until all the joints are dry.

Mending a wobbly chair doesn't have to need a particularly advanced skill set. However, if you believe a chair to be of antique value, always ask an expert before trying to take the work on yourself, since this may mean that the end result is worth less money. Once the chair is fixed and tried, take off the clamps, and try it for wobble. It doesn't take that long, and the results will mean that your chair will last longer and have a new lease of life.

More about this author: Rachelle de Bretagne

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