Found these two child size bentwood spindle back chairs recently and couldn’t resist taking them in. They’re bigger than toddler size and in spite of the wear and tear and poor repairs, I just had to have them.
They’re old, dry, scuffed, and cracked. But they sit well, the legs are in tight, they don’t creak, and so I forked over $3 for both of them.
The bentwood on one of them had started to crack and split. That’s what happens when the wood is exposed and dries out.
These chairs have been rescued once before. I’m guessing whoever painted them this darling turquoise blue found them with the bottoms split apart. They glued and screwed them together to give them second life.
I started by repairing the split in the bentwood. I used wood glue, c-clamps, and a piece of an old t-shirt. I used Gorilla brand wood glue, not regular Gorilla Glue.
First I dribbled wood glue into the cracks of the two splits. I held the chair at an angle so the glue would run down to the base of the crack. And when I applied the clamps and pressed the wood back together I wiped off the glue that squished out. It’s much easier to wipe off wet glue than it is to sand it down when it’s dry.
The small split on the left needed only one clamp. I used two clamps on the larger split on the right; one at the base of the crack and another to secure the tip.
I used the t-shirt between the clamp and the chair to keep from gouging the wood on the bottom. I didn’t use it on the top for several reasons. First I’ll have to sand and smooth the top anyway; second, I didn’t want to glue the shirt to the chair; and third, it was easier to get a good seal on the cracks when I could see what I was doing.
Next I went to work on the chair bottoms.
During the previous repairs, the two sides were screwed together securely, but it appears the chair wasn’t clamped while the glue dried, which led to other problems.
Wood glue is easy to find and not expensive and I’m learning it’s important to use wood glue on wood. I don’t know what kind of glue was used here, but it shrunk into the split, leaving a crack and at the same time the excess dried into big glops that are nearly impossible to sand away. The two parts were also misaligned when the repairs were made.
Instead of taking it all apart and starting over—which may have been impossible because of the bad glue—I went the cosmetic route. With the crack filled, a good sanding and a coat of paint, no one will be the wiser.
I first sanded away the flaking paint and doing the best I could with the industrial strength glue. Then I squished wood filler into the crack. Because of the wonderful contour of the chair seat I used my finger instead of a putty knife. I didn’t want to create any additional gouges I’d have to fix.
The wood putty dries fast and sands easily so it wasn’t long before I attacked the split and the misalignment with coarse sandpaper. It’s not perfect, but I was able to gnaw down the high side to disguise the mismatch.
By this time the glue was dry on the bentwood repair. I didn’t read the label on the bottle of glue—that print is too fine to mess with—so it was probably not totally cured, but it was dry enough for me to go to the next step. While the cracks are still visible when you look at it, they were smooth to the touch, with no splinters or obvious snags. However, once the split was back in place, I found a gouge of wood was missing at the top of it.
A good scrubbing with coarse sandpaper and the smaller split almost disappeared.
The larger split still needed some help.
Back to the wood filler. I filled the gouge and smeared it over the length of both of the repairs. Next step will be to sand it and see what it looks like. This was as far as I got with it the first day. Storm clouds were rolling in so I had to quit and put my projects in the garage.
So how should I paint these when I get them to that stage?
I like the turquoise, but maybe I should go with pretty princess colors for tea parties? How about lots of bold and bright colors with Mary Engelbreit style graphics? Then there’s always zebra stripes. I can make seat cushions to match the colors and the theme.
I’m open to finding a small table and making it a set.
I need help on deciding how to finish these. Let me know what you think.