Analyzing The Situation

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You are trying to salvage a fractured chair. The side rails arc joined to the back posts and front legs with mortise-and-tenon joints, a typical situation in chair construction. But whoever smashed this chair did a thorough job, and after disassembling it. you now hold a side rail in your hand with the tenon on one end broken off. The tenon is still in the mortise in the back post. What can you do? Here are some logical steps to follow. First, examine the tenon. Can it be removed from the mortise in one piece? If so, you may be able to rejoin it to the side rail and save the day. If not, carefully chisel it out of the mortise, taking care not to damage the mortise as you do so. Now examine the side rail and recognize the possible solutions. As a first step, you can cut off the fractured stump of the tenon, using your backsaw. Now there appear to be several ways to mend the damage.

  1. Buy a piece of hardwood of the proper wood and size and make a new chair rail. Cut tenons on each end of the new rail after trimming it to the right size: then fit the new tenons into the existing mortises.
  2. Another and probably more practical method is to make a tenon to replace the broken one. This is best because you can reuse the original chair rail. You obviously can't cut a new tenon on the end of the old chair rail, but you can chisel a mortise into the rail to match the mortise in the back post. Then, shape a hardwood tenon to fit into both mortises to make a kind of super dowel. This method does work.
  3. A third possiblity occdrs: you could fill the mortise in the back post by cutting a plug of hardwood to fill it. Glue the plug in place. Now join the rail and the back post with dowels.
Use a chisel to remove a broken tenon from ils mortise. Scrape out the old glue Then glue in a new mortise plug

This example describes a very common occurrence in furniture repair and provides you with two insights: (I ) you must be prepared to analyze repair situations in order to consider alt possible solutions; (2) you need enough woodworking skill and knowledge to make the basic joints. The joints you should learn to make are the dowel, mortise-and-tenon, the dovetail, the miter, the dado and the full and half laps.

To make these with hand tools, you will need good sharp wood chisels, a back saw and a coping saw, as well as a good small steel rule. The job is easier with power tools, including :i router and an electric scroll saw. To make mitered joints by hand, you should have a miter box, a wood or metal box with slots already cut in its sides. The hacksaw blade fits through these slots. The work to be cut goes into the box, and the slots guide your saw so that you make even cuts at the required angle.

The making of each of these joints is covered here in step-by-step photographs and drawings, liefer to these every time you must make a joint until you become familiar with the techniques. By all means, make some practice joints out of scrap hardwood before trying to repair a good piece of furniture. Gain some confidence in your woodworking abilities first: then go to work.


A butt point is easily reinforced with dowels If the dowels break, you musi route out Ihe old siubs and insert new dowels.

To use a dowel jig align the iwo pieces to be doweled. Use a square lo make lines across the positions for the dowels, marking both pieces at once


THE ART OF A dowel is a MAKING A round length of

DOWELED JOINT hardwood used to join two pieces of wood. Doweled joints are strong and, because the dowels are invisible when the joint is finished, neat in appearance.

A butt point is easily reinforced with dowels If the dowels break, you musi route out Ihe old siubs and insert new dowels.

Dowel Joints

The dowel joint can be used in many repair situations. It often can be used to replace other more complicated joints, as was pointed out earlier in this chapter. Good dowel joints can be used at points of stress on furniture because the joints can take pressure from all sides.

Dowel joints frequently can be used to rejoin the pieces of broken and fractured parts. For instance, dowels can rejoin the two pieces of a wooden chair seat that has cracked and broken apart. Sometimes a dowel can be used to join the parts of broken rails and rungs, so that you need not go to the trouble of making an entirely new part.

If you find that a piece you want to salvage is poorly made, with weak joints or perhaps with parts held together with scrcws, you can increase its value and usefulness by literally remaking it. Use dowels to replace the screws and weak joints. In the same manner, you can improve the quality of a piece of inexpensive unfinished furniture by taking it apart and rejoining the poorly joined pans with dowels.

You can make your own dowels or buy them at some home centcrs and most woodworking specialty shops. The dowels you buy have circular grooves already cut in them to take care of the glue. You can find them in various diameters and lengths.

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Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

THIS book is one of the series of Handbooks on industrial subjects being published by the Popular Mechanics Company. Like Popular Mechanics Magazine, and like the other books in this series, it is written so you can understand it. The purpose of Popular Mechanics Handbooks is to supply a growing demand for high-class, up-to-date and accurate text-books, suitable for home study as well as for class use, on all mechanical subjects. The textand illustrations, in each instance, have been prepared expressly for this series by well known experts, and revised by the editor of Popular Mechanics.

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