So I get a call from a friend of a friend that "understands"
I do some woodworking and can I fix her dining room chair?
The glue is still drying on the latest project so I think
why not. So I told her I'd take a look, and see if I
can fix it. The chair was waiting for me this evening. It looks
to be maple with a cloth backed seat. The
whole thing is put together with dowels and about 75%
of the joints have failed. A few taps of the hammer and
I've got about a dozen pieces laying around. Pulled out
the glue and glued and clamped the whole thing back up.
Total time about 45 minutes. The chair looks to be
40 to 60 years old and I'm wondering what type of glue
would have been used in factory made chairs of that age?
The old glue in the joints is light brown and has a
shiny crystalline appearance. I'm guessing hide glue or
resorcinol, but don't really know. Ideas?
Also, it's been my experience that trying to reinforce
an old chair by putting in some nails or screws doesn't
work very well. Anybody have any suggestions?
Probably hide glue. Anything pre-war and anything that wasn't going for
that "brave new world" '50s plywood look would still have been hide. The
new glues were appearing post war, but it was mainly in lamination that
they were being used.
Hide. Resorcinol is darker and doesn't have that "shattered toffee" look
of old hide.
Fix it exactly the way they built it. Half-a-century is a good life for
any chair without needing some repair, so they must have done somethign
On Thu, 01 Dec 2005 11:40:32 +0000, Andy Dingley wrote:
Thanks. Your shattered toffee description is exactly what this stuff
looks like. There was enough bare wood showing that I used regular yellow
glue and put the chair back together exactly as it came apart. My choices
of glue were limited to yellow and polyurethane. Epoxy would have been
good, but I don't have any at the moment. The chair glued up well and
seemed tight this morning when I pulled the clamps off. I hope the joints
hold up with use.
I've had good success using polyurethane glue in similar situations.
The expansion of the glue helps fill any gaps so the joint stays tight.
Wait until the glue dries and carefully chisel away any excess that
foamed out of the joint.
"Even an old blind hog finds an acorn every now and then."
Myth Buster #77:
Poly glue certainly does foam out and it does expand - but - the expansion
is nothing but weak walled bubbles (look closely) and does not add any
measurable strength to the joint whatsoever. Gap filling is best done with
epoxy type adhesives. This myth has been covered in a number of articles in
the woodworking mags in the past and is easily researched.
I've read those articles too, and I've used more than one bottle of
poly glue. I understand that the expanded glue has very little tensile
or shear strength, but it certainly fills the inevitable voids in a
joint that has worked loose. These joints typically have good contact
on part of their mating surfaces and the poly will grab very well
there. I believe the expanded part helps keep the joint from wiggling,
which adds strength.
I completely disassembled and reglued six 1950's era kitchen chairs for
a friend who weighs over 250# They've been in daily use by his family
for five years years since then. I asked him a few months ago how they
were holding up. He said they are all still tight with nary a loose
Have you ever tried it in this application?
"If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy."
Never have used poly on gluing any old chairs back together, only hide glue
and epoxy and then only when needed for a hidden repair, like a partially
broken dowel. I have used poly on a number of other applications and know
full well that the expanded foam has little strength. If the gap is a wide
as the thickness of a business card - then you're better off with epoxy.
I'm not saying the joint will alway's fail (depends on a number of
variables) but the recommendations are to not to use poly for gap filling if
joint strength is an issue. The walls of the bubbles have minimal strength.
Poly's strenght comes from the bonding action and by wetting the wood prior
to applying the poly, it allows the poly to be forced into cell structure of
the wood when the parts are pressed together and the curing starts.
Obviously your chairs must have had good tight fitting joints if they have
not failed in 5 years. Do an experiment and drill a hole in some wood and
then sand down a piece of dowel so it's undersized and has a gap all around
when placed in the hole. Mist the wood, apply the poly and clamp. Now do
the same again but be sure the dowel is a snug fit in the hole. Make the
dowels long enough so you can get your hand on them to wiggle and pull them
and break the joint. Which one do you think will fail first? Do a 3rd
hole, undersize the dowel again and use epoxy this time (even the 5 min
variety will work for this experiment).
Bob, I'll agree that epoxy is stronger and fills gaps better. But
epoxy is a pain to use and I think poly is strong enough for the
application. You are certainly free to disagree, just don't try to
make me look like a fool for suggesting it.
"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom
that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down
on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid
again---and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold
one anymore." - Mark Twain
Didn't try to make anyone look like a fool. Simply stated what has been
stated many times here before. If you don't believe that, then do some
research of your own.
Let's get the info straight so the OP isn't confused. Some poly's, like
System 3's, are advertised as gap filling and all the poly's I've ever tried
also foam out and will fill a reasonable sized gap. The poly can be sanded
and finished but the foaming action makes for weak, honey-comb like walls
which have little strength. So if the joint has a gap, and it needs to be
strong, then your best off using epoxy as the adhesive. If strength is not
an issue and you want to fill the gap with something, then poly glues are an
option but so is yellow glue and sawdust.
As the original poster I wasn't confused. I had already
glued up the chair before even sending the original post
My main interest was in identifying the original glue
used on the chair and the group was most helpful in pointing
me to hide glue. I understand the properties of the various
modern glues, but this thread has been interesting and I
thank everyone for their input. Actually the original
hide glue had held for 50 years. I really need to try
some of the stuff on an appropriate project.
Research? You mean I gotta do research before I dare to answer a
question around here? If research is the answer, let him do his own.
The guy asked for personal experience and I told him about mine. Then
you charge in with your "mythbusters" and "research". I got no time
for this. I'd rather make sawdust.
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