When good chairs go bad

So I’m sitting at the table one night with my wife when I hear a loud crack and a thud hit the floor. A look over to my right and my wife is sitting on the floor with a dumbfounded look on her face. Seems the windsor chair I made seven years ago finally gave in and failed. No way was I about to blame it on the cheese cake she ate 30 minutes earlier so I quickly grabbed the chair and noticed where I made my mistake. I turned to her with a red face and apologized. Talk about embarrassing.

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It was the tenon on the leg where it attached to the seat. I made the mistake of not tapering the leg all the way into the seat but rather, I turned a 3/4″ tenon at the end instead. At the time I was building the chair, it was an easier thing to do but that tenon created a weak spot in the joinery and the years of use as well as the changes in humidity in the seasons finally made the joint fail.

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I didn’t want to throw the chair away since the top half of it was still good so I decided to lick my wounds and make new legs for the chair. This time the right way and not the half-ass way.

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I drilled relief holes in top of the seat where the legs popped through and removed the remaining tenons from the seat. Next I took the four holes and tapered them with a tapered auger and some files and rasps.

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Then milling up some stock, I turned four new legs and three stretchers. Using my shaving horse, I trimmed the corners of all the parts before I turned them on the lathe.

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Once the legs were turned, I fitted them into the new tapered holes of the seat for a nice fit. Trial and error was key here as I constantly had to check the hole for the proper taper.

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Once all four legs were dry fitted I measured the distance between the legs and turned three stretchers. Two on the side and one in the middle connecting the two. Then I used hot hide glue and glued all the parts together. Hide glue gives me a lot more open working time than yellow glue and is the glue of choice for a lot of chairmakers.

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The chair was back in business. I just needed to clean up the top of the legs that poked through the seat and drive a wedge on top so they won’t move in the joint.

Then it was time to trim the bottom of the legs flush with the floor. Since the chair rocked a little bit from the unevenness of the legs, I took a piece of sandpaper, laid it on my table saw and sanded the longer leg even to the rest of them.

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All I have to do now is sand and repaint the chair and it’ll be good as new. Oh.. and remake the legs for five other chairs.

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