Repair antique chairs

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Forum topic by Keekee posted 12-04-2018 02:35 PM 503 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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21 posts in 1771 days

12-04-2018 02:35 PM

I have a Freind that has a set of antique chains ( over 100 years old). I’ve only seen pictures of them. They appear to have corner blocks screwed in and an H- frame stretcher at the bottom. I assume he wants to keep the integrity intact and not use cycrocinoate (sp?) i.e. super glue.

So I assume I’ll use hyde glue. Did some antique repairs 30 years ago but don’t remember a whole lot. Do I need to take chair appart, clean glue off and reassemble. Or can I get a syringe and squirt glue in leaving old glue intact. If so can hyde be thinned. How do I thin it. Use water or heat it. I’ll probably buy the hyde glue in a bottle by Patrick Edwards.

Could I drill a tiny hole and use a syringe to squirt some hyde glue in. But then again you still have the old glue intact.

One thing about woodworking the more you know the more you realize you don’t know. Years ago I would have simply squirted in some Elmer’s. Now that I’m retired I know alot more and all the problems you can run into. Almost intimidate myself.

4 replies so far

View Phil32's profile


838 posts in 504 days

#1 posted 12-04-2018 07:04 PM

Repairing or rebuilding antique furniture involves at least two considerations: conservation and function. We have all heard the assessment of experts on Antique Roadshow, “It would be worth much more if you hadn’t tried to repair or refinish it!” Joints should be restored as close to their original form as possible. If the glue is entirely concealed, it may not be critical to use hide glue. It is more important that the glue penetrate the wood. Separate the joints, if possible, and scrape off old glue before re-gluing.

I recently volunteered to rework some wooden chairs for a friend. There were missing pieces that had to be replaced, dowel joints to be redone. Other plugged screw joints were easier to tighten. Some of the repairs presented special challenges for clamping. It came out well, and the friend was pleased. but the bottom line was we were working to make the chairs functional.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View WoodenDreams's profile


878 posts in 512 days

#2 posted 12-04-2018 07:22 PM

The chairs I’ve restored, all were assembled with hyde glue. If joints are loose – they’re easy to disassemble. A heat gun will loosen the hyde glue, careful of the heat if trying to save the old finish. I did remove or drill out all the dowel joints & clean them up and installed new dowels. I normally use hyde glue for reassembly, but I have used epoxy on a couple of the restored chairs. This rocking chair

was made in the 50’s


View bilyo's profile


959 posts in 1703 days

#3 posted 12-05-2018 12:04 AM

I agree with Phil32 above and would add that it is important to determine, as best you can, what value the chairs might have as antiques. By 1900 (more than 100 years ago) machine made furniture was becoming more prevalent. If your chairs were factory made in large numbers, they might not have much antique value. That may be of some consideration on how you proceed with repairs. I think you should, in and case, strive to preserve and conserve to the extent you can. If the existing glue is hide, stick with it (no pun intended). But, if you have a serious structural problem, epoxy may be appropriate. If you do use hide glue, you may want to research hot hide glue that you mix from powder or flakes. My understanding is that there are various grades; some being stronger than others. In chairs, strength is certainly a consideration.

Regardless of what glue you use, the best way to make the repairs is to take them apart, clean them up, and re-glue. If the original glue is hide, heat and water are your friend.

View shipwright's profile


8452 posts in 3399 days

#4 posted 12-05-2018 12:24 AM

Couple of things.
I use hide (sorry not hyde) glue all the time. If you want to preserve value, I agree you should reglue with hide glue.
Avoid dry heat as you can disturb the finish and because hide glue reverses best with heat/moisture. Hot rags work well.
There is no need to remove the old glue, in fact doing so may remove some wood and loosen the joints. Hot hide glue will reactivate the old glue and form a perfect bond.

If you use OBG (from Patrick) I would heat it to a little more than just enough to liquify it in order to better reactivate the old glue.
The second reason for using hide glue is that next time someone needs to do this (in another hundred years) they too will be able to reverse the glue.

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

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