Repairs To Weak Or Failed Seams In Wood Furniture
Wood shrinks. One of the consequences of this natural process is that formerly tightly fitting seams can pull apart. Also, with heat and/or moisture, older glue joints held by hide or lignin glue can fail. As on the table section to the right, a seam on this table has come apart and was brought to us to repair.
Re-gluing a seam is not always a simple project. If the wood has shrunk, the two mating edges are often no longer parallel. Simply gluing and clamping them together will create great stress on that new joint or a weaker section of wood nearby. The result is often a new split somewhere else. If there has been shrinkage on a round table, gluing the sections together will usually mean that the round edge is no longer round and there can be little steps where the seam reaches the outside edge of the table. The screw holes attaching a table top to a base may no longer align and new holes must be prepared.
It should be clear that there are a number of issues which must be considered and addressed in repairing and re-gluing a loose or open seam. We have the knowledge and experience to do this job right.
The tall photo to the far right is two parts of a table section where the glue seam has failed. Above, the two mating edges have been straightened so they fit tightly together, and little troughs for wooden biscuits have been cut to help align and hold the sides together. It is then glued and clamped as is illustrated to the immediate right, and then the table surface will be whole again.
It is not only flat surfaces which have seams that fail. This skirt from an oak table was made from laminated strips of oak, similar to the way plywood is made. The glue failed and the skirt was buckling. We can remedy issues such as these, as you can see.
The two planks on the left are the bottom of an old trunk. The pine shrunk, split apart, and left two large gaps. One had already been taken care of when this picture was taken, the second is being glued in the picture below.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the piece to the left, this plain chair on the right needs work on the seams of its seat.
After the seams of the seat are re-glued, the rest of the chair can be re-glued and then, once again, you could rest your tired bones on this chair.
Maple furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, variously known as "American Colonial" or "Early American" had a fatal flaw. Maple shrinks significantly when dried and the seams and joints on pieces made in this era were very inadequately glued.
The chair above right is very typical of what we see. Many joints were already loose when the piece came in. Once stripped, the wood is no longer insulated from the atmosphere by its finish. It can now fully adjust to the ambient air. When that air is dry, the wood will often rapidly shrink. As with this chair and so many others we have seen, the wood will shrink even more than it had before coming in and additional joints and seams will fail. We have had to re-glue every joint and seam on entire sets of maple furniture from this era. If you are facing this issue, count on spending some significant money if you would like to see this furniture endure for the next several generations.
But what if the furniture doesn't need to be stripped and only a couple seams on the seat have failed? This is a surprisingly common issue. The picture to the right illustrates the way we remedy this issue. The seams cannot be separated sufficiently to insert dowels or biscuits as an additional support to the seam. Instead we clean and re-glue the seam with epoxy. After the seam is tight, we rout out a pocket in the underside of the seat and add a spline of maple glued in place with epoxy. We guarantee this repair for five years. We would be surprised if it ever failed--even five hundred years from now. Check back, we'll let you know!