Monday, December 8, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Chairs! Oh my!

Okay, so there aren't any lions or tigers, but I have been working on chairs lately. Way back in 2000, Kara and I received a dining room set from a family member who was going to upgrade. The chairs were gucked up with that nasty black waxy stuff that gets on chairs after they rach a certain age...you know that stuff? The finish was peeling off the table, too. It was a pretty decent set, it was just old.

Well Kara and I spent weeks stripping down all the chairs (chemical stripper, not sandpaper), and restaining and polyurethaning them--4 chairs, 2 arm chairs, a table, and 2 leaves. As it turned out, they were made from solid walnut and looked great after all our efforts. But time has passed and table's finish is chipped in places and the chairs have gotten rather rickety and squeaky. We got an estimate on repairing the chairs at just over $100 per chair; however, we're too cheap for that.

I took one of the armchairs where both arms had fallen off, and knocked the thing completely apart. It was held together with dowel pins, but they'd worked themselves so loose that it didn't take much work with a mallet to get them apart. Once they were apart, I drilled pocket screw holes with a new Kreg Pocket Hole Jig (this has nothing to do with dancing in my pants pockets!) that I purchased for this very purpose. I figured that replacing the dowels would be good, but pocket screws would make these chairs bombproof. On the arms, I ended up using epoxy to fill in the voids and redrilling holes for dowels.

I also bought new foam for the cushions. The fabric was washed thoroughly (in the washing machine) and restapled to the seat form, then screwed back onto the newly glued-and-screwed chair. Voila! Like-new chairs for a few bucks each!

So far, I've done 5 out of 6 chairs which is what we need right now with Mike deciding recently that he'd like to sit at the table in a "regular" chair too. The last one...well...as soon as I get over this cold, I may tackle it.

The most intricate part of the chair rebuilds was rebuilding spindles. Over time, some of the spindles that go from the front legs to the back legs were broken, and I couldn't imagine a way to buy a replacement. So I made them. If I had a lathe, I would have turned exact duplicates of the originals. But I don't. I do have a spokeshave though, which I made with my brother in law Tom a few years back, and that'd do in a pinch. I bought a 3/4" poplar dowel from my local Lowe's, and shaved the dowel down just like I was whittling. And I'd say I did a pretty fine job, if'n I do say so m'self!

Unfortunately, I was only able to weasel one new tool out of this job; the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. But that's better than nothing, right? Plus, I saved us a few hundred dollars over fixing or replacing these chairs.

2 comments:

Kevin said...

All you have to do is find the lathe at one of the yard sales down the street like you did with most of your starter tools.

I have always been envious of ya'lls ability to snorffle out the craziest deals anywhere.

Don't lose hope though. You will get your lathe. I have a feeling it is just around the corner . . . .

Brig said...

There are small lathes, mostly used for making pens and such. I've considered getting one of those, but I think I'm holding out for a larger bench type. I really need to hit more garage sales.

By the way--I finished the last of the chairs tonight. Woo hoo!