Repair a Wobbly Chair with Loose Rungs

A beginner’s tutorial…..

When a great chair comes your way, don’t discount it because it is wobbly or has loose rungs. Even missing rungs can easily be replaced if the part was a simple dowel. I’ll show you how to do it on this sweet child’s chair that I found at a recent auction. This is how I found it:

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All the chair parts are here except for the front rung. I like the distressed finish, the shape and the color. Usually, a chair like this can be won for just a few dollars. All I need to make the chair solid and strong again is: Elmer’s Glue, a damp cloth to wipe off excess glue, a couple of pieces of short dowel, a longer piece of dowel to replace the missing rung and some macrame cord. You will also need a 3/8″ spade bit and a drill if any of the holes has a broken off rung wedged inside or if the hole is filled with old glue. You will use the short pieces of dowel and the macrame cord over and over again on other projects once you see how easy it is to save a chair. Macrame cord can be found in craft shops or it can be purchased here.

Okay, let’s get to work.

IMG_0404The chair had piece of rung still adhering to the leg, so I used my 3/8″ spade bit in my drill to clean out the hole. Go slow so that you don’t go all the way through the chair leg! I’ve done that.

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Measure and cut the length of dowel you will need if you are replacing a missing rung. Then fill both holes with glue and insert the dowel.

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Wrap a length of macrame cord around the legs twice and tie the ends together. Position it so it is near the newly glued joints.

IMG_0410Stick one of the short pieces of dowel between the macrame cord and start to twist it around, using the short dowel piece as a tool. The tension tightens the newly glued legs like a vise.

IMG_0411Let one of the rungs act as a brace to hold the dowel securely.

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Next, I need to fix the long split in the seat of the chair so I ran a bead of Elmer’s Glue along the crack and let it run down into the crevice.

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To hold the two pieces of wood together while the glue dries, I’ve used the same technique as I did to hold the legs and rungs together. Just wrap the cord around the seat twice, insert another short piece of dowel and twist it over and under until the two pieces of wood are pressed together tightly. Just like this:

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The glue will squeeze out so just wipe off the excess with the damp cloth.

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Almost finished! Put some glue in the seat holes to put the back of the chair back in place

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and in the holes along the top rail. Insert the lower spindles into the seat first so that you can tap them in with a hammer if necessary. You’ve done it! It is now sturdy and strong. This technique works on any chair and lasts for many years.

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6 thoughts on “Repair a Wobbly Chair with Loose Rungs

  1. Hi Ginene! So cute when finished! You have a lot of patience!! :-) Just got your comment on my blog and I certainly appreciate you coming back! I am not sure how to follow you on WordPress since I’m Blogger, so I’m going to go find you on Facebook! Looking forward to connecting with you!! Polly

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  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I have a chair that is a bit wobbly. So I am going to see if I can dislodge one of the rungs, so I can re glue it. Any suggestions on how to remove it?

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    • Hi Wendy,
      I which I could see it so I could tell you how to proceed. If you have a utility knife, you could see if you can score around the insertion point to loosen old glue enough to move the rung back and forth a little at a time. Don’t twist it as much as use a gently back and forth movement. You don’t want to break it off.
      Some people use a heat gun to melt old glue. I’ve never tried that technique.
      If I have a rung that doesn’t come out, I either stick toothpicks covered with Elmer’s Glue inside to fill any open spaces, or I break it off, drill out the broken piece, and put in another rung. (I save old pieces.)
      Good Luck, Wendy!

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  3. Wow! Thank you so much for such a speedy and thorough reply. I now feel well prepared to follow your guidelines and hopeful I can salvage the seat (I have painted the entire chair decoratively and was worried it could not actually be used). I’ll see if a local woodworker has a small piece of the thin plywood you are suggesting before I order a whole sheet.

    The internet amazes me! Thank you for your expertise and spirit of sharing!

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