Years of wear and tear eventually take their toll on furniture, no matter how careful you are. You may pull a drawer open and have the face come off in your hands, or Uncle Ed leans back in your kitchen chair and the back falls off or a leg breaks. It's time to do some repairs. This may seem intimidating, but just think of it as taking something apart and putting it back together again! Find an area that is well ventilated and is large enough to comfortably work in. The first thing you need to do is disassemble the piece properly, so that when you are ready to reassemble there will be no missing pieces, and everything will fit. Lets start with that chair that Uncle Ed was sitting in. With the chair in front of you begin to tap the joints loose with a rubber mallet. Be sure to use a rubber mallet to avoid putting dents in the wood. If the joints won't budge try using a little steam to loosen the glue. Place several layers of damp cloth or brown paper over the joint and apply a warm iron. The steam will loosen the glue so that you can tap the joints apart. The way in which you take the piece apart is very important. Don't just put all the pieces in a pile, because over the years furniture develops unique wear spots in the sockets, and you want to replace the pieces exactly where you found them. Put the pieces from the right side to the right of you, the pieces from the left side to the left of you, and the crest rail and splats in the middle.
Next, you need to clean the male and female joints and remove all of the old glue. This can be accomplished by scraping with a chisel. Continue scraping until all of the old glue is removed. Now you are ready to re-glue. Spread the glue evenly onto both surfaces of the joint using a glue brush or glue syringe. Glue brushes allow even coating and glue syringes allow you to get glue into hard to reach joints and sockets. When you are finished applying the glue, clamp the joints. Clamping brings the joint surfaces into close contact and helps form a stronger bond. Lay the piece on a flat surface and make sure corners are square. Wipe excess glue that is squeezed from the joints with a damp cloth or paper towel. Wait ten or fifteen minutes and check to see if more glue has been forced out. If so tighten the clamps a little more and clean off excess glue. Allow to dry, undisturbed, overnight.
To repair pieces that are broken, such as the leg or back of a chair, it is best to use epoxy. Epoxy cures by way of a chemical reaction that forms a water tight, insoluble and transparent glue line. It is generally much stronger than glue, and dries faster. Work in a well ventilated area and wear rubber gloves, since epoxy can irritate the skin. To repair a broken joint, first make sure the two pieces fit together and that there are no missing "chunks". Follow the directions on the product label, since most epoxy must be mixed thoroughly in order for it to dry and harden properly. Apply the epoxy to both halves of of the broken pieces and press them together making sure they line up perfectly. Peel off excess as the epoxy begins to harden, or wipe off excess with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. It generally takes from fifteen minutes to less than an hour for the repair to completely dry and harden.
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