Doweled Chair Repair #1: Pair of Antique Doweled Chairs

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Blog entry by DrDirt posted 03-30-2014 04:46 AM 2066 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Doweled Chair Repair series Part 2: First Steps of Regluing »

My wifes grandfather was an avid woodworker in La Canada California. He owned and founded Lincoln Lumber in Pasadena.

My wife received a pair of chairs, with rotted out leather seats, and a pretty rough finish. The chairs spent the past 60 years or so in a steel Shipping container/storage unit outside Palmdale.

This is the intact-ish one the other is laying in pieces sanded beside it. One of the features I really like is that he made the barley twist on the front legs run opposite directions (one clockwise one counterclockwise):

Of course to do proper restoration, I decided to go with hot hide glue.

Playing with it, I definitely found it is plenty strong. This is 192 gram strength, and I added urea (the blue capped tube). Bought the glue from Homestead finishing.

I used the recipe I found on Blended woodworking of adding 15% urea by weight.

It certainly added to the gel time – so I think I can work with this.
I played with making rub joints until it tacked – I used a quick grip clamp overnight, then put it in a vice and using my “CALIBRATED mallet” to check the glue strength – especially with the urea in it.

You can see in the cherry gluline – it is plenty strong. there were two joints, I was surprised that the longer piece of wood failed, rather than one of the shorter ones… however the result is indeed the hide glue is stronger than the wood—- even after adulterating it with 15% urea.

Back to the Chair
I got all the joints apart, with the help of a Wagner wallpaper steamer, with a piece of RC Airplane hobby brass tubing inserted as a steam wand, rather than the plastic diffusers that came with it.
That + some bar spreaders, and the occasional coaxing with the Mallet – and I have a pile of chair parts.

Sanded down, and ready to reassemble. Sanding the Van-dyke brown stain out of the barley twists by hand really really REALLY was miserable! But used strips of cloth backed paper ~3/4 inch wide, from an 3X21 belt sander belt.

Now just have to see if I can get gluing done on Sunday – or if the plethora of kids activities, will derail my plans.
Certainly with hot hide, I will still need to break down the glue-up into stages.

The red bins are the different length dowels (hence the blue tape) since when the chairs were made, he didn’t drill all holes the same depth (for stretchers that would be impossible anyway)


-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

4 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


8821 posts in 4289 days

#1 posted 03-30-2014 05:17 AM

Looks like a great project. The original use of HHG makes it relatively easy to disassemble and re-glue. Did you try any rub joints without urea? They should require no clamping and be perfect and just as strong. I like that because it is often hard to keep the pieces from sliding when you clamp them. Without urea you should get a strong tack in about 30 seconds to a minute.
I will watch with interest for your next entry.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View DrDirt's profile


4615 posts in 5234 days

#2 posted 03-30-2014 05:34 AM

Paul -
I found the no urea rub joint grabbed faster. with Urea, even though I feel it tack, it is still rubbery..

But I was looking at the pile of parts to get aligned… and concluded I needed more time.

Of course with hide… if it doesn’t work right, I can take it back apart and try again!

I have used liquid hide in the past when I made a morris chair – - but thought with this I wanted it to be back to the way it was originally made, only the finish wont be quite so dark…. until my real boss, decides different.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 3121 days

#3 posted 03-31-2014 01:14 AM

Great post !!! I think dowels are on their way back.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3672 posts in 5204 days

#4 posted 04-01-2014 05:23 AM

This should be a great restoration. I agree that the barley twists in opposite directions really make the chair look “right,” (sort of how I feel about women’s earrings that aren’t mirror image.) I’ll enjoy seeing your progress.


-- Voltaire: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” There are 112 genders (not including male and female)

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