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I have this old chair, French I believe, for a restoration project.

It's a bit rickety so I'd like to take it apart, clean up the dowels and glue surfaces and re-glue before upholstering.

The original wood is cracked so I was going to clamp and glue with modern waterproof wood glue, before reassembling with the same.

Open joint

Carving

Old French chair

Wire reinforcing

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  • You're asking too much here — as per the global SE rule, Questions should be reasonably scoped, so one major question per Question (with maybe one directly related query coupled to it). Just the title query is enough for one, then separate Qs for the disassembly/reassembly part.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 14:32
  • Just about part of this one, "Does anyone know from the photos anything about the chair, what wood it is and age?" We can't answer the wood ID part, so when you re-ask this take that out. The decision was taken early on here for ID queries to be off-topic, in part because of the extreme difficulty in doing this from photos (even if they are large and clear it's sometimes still nearly impossible). And despite how easy it seems to clearly identify some common species oddball examples exist, and many real pros will only do this by examining well-prepared end grain using a loupe or microscope.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 14:34

2 Answers 2

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What glue suits restoring this old (French?) chair?

Take your pick. In addition to there being some personal preference involved naturally, different jobs may require specific adhesives.

Although some people — mostly 'armchair theorists' and weekend warriors — insist that only animal-sourced glues should be used to repair antiques1, the simple fact is that certain jobs call for other glues to be employed.

Arguably the best example is the (not uncommon) situation where you need gap filling. Except in limited circumstances this can't be done strongly using protein glue (and neither PVA nor foaming polyurethane are appropriate either). The adhesive usually chosen for gap-filling repairs is epoxy, and it is widely used for this purpose.

It's not hard to envisage a situation where the repairs needed to an old chair lead to three adhesives being used.

  • Cracks along the grain that occurred due to the levering forces from use while the chair was wobbly from loose joints are glued using PVA or foaming polyurethane2.
  • To re-glue the joints that are structurally sound but the glue has failed you could use hide glue to re-glue.
  • One leg/frame joint broke while someone was in the chair, resulting in a bad break and there is now some missing wood, that is glued with epoxy.

1 The two main reasons given are 1) it's reversible, and 2) it's traditional. Neither of those points are wrong, but this looks at the issue much too shallowly — just to give one example, there was more than one kind of traditional adhesive, and multiple types and grades of animal-derived glue, some of which are better suited to specific applications.

2 Because either works excellently as a thin-film adhesive, producing invisible joins that are stronger than the wood around them if done well. Additionally these repairs are of course intended to be permanent, so by not using hide glue any future restoration where structural joints need to be separated and re-glued again, any use of heat/moisture/vinegar won't equally effect the crack repairs.

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  • I have not done any resto work but epoxy has always done the job for me.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 10:23
  • @NeilMeyer, yeah, epoxy is probably underused in general woodworking. But PVA glues, both white and yellow versions, do make them very good choices as the go-to adhesive in the workshop.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:41
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    Wouldn't an 'armchair theorist' be the person to ask?
    – gnicko
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 23:37
  • The phrase the simple fact is often means, or at least comes of as meaning, "I'm going to pretend this is so obvious that it doesn't require an explanation because I can't really back up my statement." I'm sure you didn't mean that, and you did at least give an example to support your argument, but every time I see that phrase I want references. IMO the right glue to use often depends on the value of the piece and whether you're trying to put it back into service, conserve an artifact, or something in between. If the piece is valuable, I'd try to stick with reversible operations only.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 18:25
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    @Caleb, I don't much care how other people use it, or what some might infer from it (there's no control over that), but when I use the phrase it's literally for what the words mean. Did you even read from that point onwards??? I went on to give specific examples of how and why — the entirety of the rest of the text was devoted to fleshing out the context!
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 2:53
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There are other reasons why hide glue is the right glue to use here. In my mind, the biggest reasons are:

  1. Hide glue is flexible. If something happens to the leg later, the glue won't be brittle.
  2. Hide glue doesn't destroy the wood. By that, I mean that if you use yellow glue for something like this, the glue is often stronger than the wood. That means that if something happens to the leg, it's the wood that will give first and not the glue - then you'll really have a mess to fix.
  3. Hide glue is MUCH easier to clean up (warm water) and to fix mistakes that you've made (same thing).

I've found that for most serious applications, hide glue is almost magic.

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