How to fix a broken chair leg is a topic that just might put us out of the upcycling ‘business’. After all, if everyone knew how easy it is to do, they’d never toss their broken chairs to the curb. And then we’d have nothing to blog about. Despite that, we’ll take our chances!
You may have a broken chair leg in your home right now. So before you toss it, today we’re showing you just how easy it is to fix. We’ll give you all our tips and tricks!
How to Fix a Broken Chair Leg
One of the dowels in the rung of this cute curb side rocker was completely broken. You could take every piece apart just to replace the dowel, but why do that when there’s an easier and faster way!
Inspect the Chair
Inspect the chair from all angles to determine what needs to be repaired.
You may think you only have a broken dowel. However, on closer inspection, maybe a screw in the curved rocker has loosened over time as you see below. In this case, it’s a simple matter of tightening the screws with a screwdriver.
Take note of everything that needs attention and make all repairs at once. Especially if you intend to repaint the chair at some point, you don’t want to make repairs after completing the transformation!
Choose the Right Screw
We’re using a screw for this repair. But don’t worry, with our method, you’ll never see it. Screw selection is important. The screw must be long enough to go through the leg and well into the stretcher to hold it together.
Choose the Right Drill Bits
For a fast and, more importantly, perfect repair it may be surprise you to learn you’ll need three different drill bits. First you’ll need a countersink to hide the head of the screw. Second is a drill bit that’s narrower than the shank of the screw. This one will be for the ‘pilot hole’ that goes through both the leg and the stretcher. Lastly you also need a drill bit that’s slightly wider than the shank of the screw (we’ll explain why later).
Test the countersink bit in a scrap piece of wood to ensure that the head of a screw will be hidden.
A perfect fit!
How to Fix a Broken Chair Leg – A Bit More Prep
In addition to adding a screw, it’s a good idea to re-glue the joint. Carefully use a utility knife to scrape away any old glue you can see. New glue will resist sticking to old glue. If you can, get into the space with a piece of sandpaper to remove any remaining glue.
Now use a C-clamp to help position the stretcher against the leg. Here’s a handy trick to get the stretcher positioned vertically in the centre of the leg. Use a popsicle stick(s) to help raise it until it’s at the perfect position.
Drilling Procedure for How to Fix a Broken Chair Leg
First, drill the countersink in the centre of the leg. Ensure the counter sink is deep enough to accept the screw head, plus some additional space to cover the head with wood filler. We didn’t countersink deep enough on our first try to allow space for the filler, so had to go back in again.
Next, drill through the centre of the countersink hole with the second drill bit. It should go through the leg and right into the broken dowel in the stretcher. This effectively makes a pilot hole to guide the screw into the broken dowel.
The Secret to a Perfect Repair
This is Hub’s best kept secret, but now we’re sharing it with you! Switch to the third and last drill bit. Line it up with the chair leg, then use a piece of green tape to mark the depth of the leg. The marker will stop you short of drilling into the stretcher.
By drilling only into the leg, but not into the dowel at all, this will allow the screw to freely move through the leg without griping any of the wood. That is, until the threads of the screw come into contact with the stretcher – where the pilot hole was drilled. Then the thread of the screw will grip and pull the gap closed. If you miss this important step, you will find that the two pieces will never properly come together as tight as they can be. Try it for yourself and you will see.
Now that everything is drilled, the C-clamp has done its job to help to line things up. At this point you can remove the C-clamp. We’ll be using a pipe clamp a little later to support the repair as it dries after screwing and gluing.
Glue the Joint
Now’s the time to add some wood glue before inserting the screw. A glue syringe and some painters tape is essential for this step.
Tape off around the repair. Then squeeze the glue into the gap.
Rotate the chair around to let gravity help the glue seep in as far as it can go.
You can also use something thin, like an old credit card, to help spread the glue deep into the joint.
Use two blocks of wood at either end to protect the chair from the pipe clamp.
Tighten the pipe clamp against the blocks.
Then insert the long screw (preferably using an electric drill) to bring the gap together. If you’re using an electric drill, make sure it is fully charged. Ours died just before Hubs was able to finish tightening the screw – of course! He had to crank the last little bit with a hand screw driver. Not fun when you’re forcing two surfaces together!
Wipe away any excess glue that oozes out of the joint and remove the painters tape.
Fill with Wood Filler
To hide the screw head we use this two-part wood filler by Minwax (Minwax High Performance Wood Filler).*
Mix equal parts. Work quickly since the mixture remains workable for about 10 minutes at room temperature. It was hot when we did this outside so have even less working time!
Use a putty knife to apply. To fill deep holes, spread on 1/8″ thin layers, one at a time, until the hole is filled. Slightly over-fill the countersink to allow for sanding down.
Leave clamped until the the wood filler dries. Wait at least 30 minutes to sand the area over the screw head flush with the leg. We’re using 320 grit sandpaper here.
Once Minwax High Performance Wood Filler has hardened, it can then be painted (or stained).
In the time it took the wood filler to dry, I started painting the chair. I was just too eager to get going. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the full transformation of our little curb side rocker. Hopefully you can be patient until then; it’s going to be a fun project!
UPDATE: Here’s a sneak peek at how it turned out. For the full post on how we transformed the chair using Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils, see our painted rocking chair.
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More Furniture Repair Projects at Birdz of a Feather
Interested in more great tips on how to make furniture repairs? We’ve got a great tutorial on how to fix veneer that is lifting! There’s also this jewelry storage DIY that most people would’ve left in the garage. Then we rebuilt a drawer in this roadside rescue waterfall dresser. As we run into more creative ways to repair less than perfect furniture, we’ll share them with you here. So if you’ve not already following us, don’t forget to get your DIY mojo on at Birdz of a Feather and subscribe! You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
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