How to repair a Windsor chair leg

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How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby Kevin Downing » Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:17 pm

I have this friend who has a chair with a broken leg. How would you go about replacing the broken leg?

My instinct would be, assuming it is glued, to twist the lower broken leg to break any bond with the stretcher and remove it. Then remove the top from the chair seat. Make a new leg and drill to suit the stretcher. However, would you squeeze the leg into the chair seat first and then try to get the stretcher into the leg? As the stretcher would be the most flexible of all three components, hasn't it the most chance of success in this sequence?

It was made in South Africa. I dont know what type of wood was used nor if it was using greenwoodworking techniques. I dont know if the stretcher is oval in cross section, I only have this photo to go on. Any ideas would be welcomed, thanks.
Kevin
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:39 am

Kevin
To make a proper job of this type of repair you really have to disassemble the whole undercarriage and hope that the glue used comes apart easily!
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby Kevin Downing » Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:51 pm

Thanks Robin.
Any idea how I could soften the glue?
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby Robin Fawcett » Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:32 pm

Can you tell what type it is? Heating will soften animal/hide glues and hot water + detergent may work for PVA types otherwise it's down to experimenting with various thinners.
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby tagnut69 » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:02 pm

Meths should crystalize hide glue and make it brittle so the joints can be twisted apart
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby ToneWood » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:17 pm

Yes, white wood glue/PVA is water soluble, even after it has set. I was surprised when I read that but decided to reverse a glue repair this week and, sure enough, the glue softens and can be cleaned out - I used hot water. I might not have used it had I known before hand - but am now glad that I did, it is a very useful characteristic. [BTW does yellow wood glue dry yellow/look better than white when dry? White glue dries clear but that can make it look black - probably best to add some clean, matching saw dust/shavings.]

I bought a nice but damaged Windsor chain at a garage sale in America many years ago. I think one of the arm supports had broken near the end (it was a long time ago). Sadly I didn't realize that it could be repaired without replacing the part, so just used it as computer chair as it was. I probably re-sold it in a garage sale when I moved. Years later I watched one of those TV antiques shows in the UK and the dealer bought a broken old Windsor chair - one of the horizontal stays between the legs had broken near the end (similar break to mine). He took it to a repairer who fixed it quickly for £15. I don't recall exactly how it was repaired but he replaced the end of the existing stay with a piece of dowel, probably glued to the end (and possibly screwed in too?). Sounds bodged but looked fine & was strong. I was kicking myself when I saw how simply and quickly he repaired it! Had I kept it, I would have been able to carve some sort of replacement now - or perhaps asked one of the forum's turners to make a proper replace me.

That's a really nice, crisp turned pattern on the leg. Apparently all modern wood glues are stronger than the wood itself (read an article this week by somebody who broke more than 300 test joints while finding this out!) - but I don't know if I would trust it in such a critical, weight-bearing piece of the chairs structure but I might try it, before dismantling the whole chair.

BTW if you have a grungy old Windsor chair - suggest that you don't clean the patina off or you might loose most of its value and character.
Last edited by ToneWood on Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to repair a Windsor chair leg

Postby Kevin Downing » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:20 pm

Thanks for the replies. I do not know how old the chair is, nor the type of glue used. The owner said he had a second chair that had the same break and he had it repaired in South Africa before he moved to Ireland. He did not see how it was repaired but a whole new leg was turned for it. This one broke after he moved.
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