5 Rules For Fixing Timber Furniture

Follow these five simple rules for fixing timber furniture to get the job done right

A vice

Fix a loose joint early to prevent long-term problems

Fixing timber furniture can sometimes be harder than it needs to be. This is because there are small aspects of the job that, if done incorrectly, can sabotage your DIY efforts. Follow our rules for repairing timber furniture and get the job done right:  

Rule 1. Only use glue

Don’t use nails, screws, metal mending plates or angle irons to put broken furniture back together. Timber furniture parts should be joined by glue. If you use metal add-ons, remember they are just a temporary fix before the total failure of a joint.    
There are exceptions to the rule. Some pieces of timber furniture are put together with screws, and some that are predominantly glued have screw joints – for example, where chair arms attach to the backrest. And some drawers are held together with small nails.

Rule 2. Fix it before it breaks

Some breakages are the result of accidents, but most are caused by the stresses of everyday use on loosened joints. For that reason it’s vital to fix a joint as soon as it becomes loose. One loose joint leads to another and, as you continue to use the piece, the wobbling will wear, weaken, distort or crack the wood. The next thing you know, a problem that could have had a simple fix becomes a major issue.

Rule 3. Remove all old glue residue

New glue will not adhere to old glue. This is because glue works on timber by soaking in and attaching itself to timber fibres. Before you glue furniture pieces back to together ensure you scrape off any old glue. Take the joint apart and scrape off any old glue with a sharp knife, chisel, file or small paint scraper. Coarse abrasive paper will work on glue that is fairly loose or flaky.

Rule 4. Use the right glue for the job

For most furniture, you can use ordinary PVA glue, or a high-strength grade PVA. Before the 1960s, animal glue was used in furniture making. If you want to keep your furniture original, you should reassemble with animal (or hide) glue.  Be warned it’s fiddly because it has to be heated and it’s smelly. Avoid epoxy glue or the super-bond glues for routine fixes, as these will not penetrate the timber fibres.

Rule 5. Always hold a glued joint together under pressure until it dries

An unclamped joint is a lost cause. This doesn’t mean you need a workshop full of clamps. Instead, hold glued-up parts together using weights, sticks or boards used as wedges; or ratchets or elastic straps. Clamping pressure must be sufficient to bring the two pieces of wood together securely and accurately, just as they were in the original construction of the piece.

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