Fix a Wobbly Chair: Reglue a Wooden Chair

How to disassemble a wobbly chair and reglue it

Knock a wobbly wooden chair apart, clean up the joints and then reglue and clamp it to make it solid and sound again. It's an easy process if you follow our step-by-step instructions.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Step 1: Disassemble the wobbly chair

A wobbly wooden chair means one thing: Joints between the legs and the rungs have broken free. Not just one—several. The only fix is to completely disassemble the legs and reglue them.

You'll save time and avoid frustration if you label every part to make it easier to put them back together (Photo 1). Use a simple numbering and lettering pattern on the rungs, with all numbers and letters facing forward. Left and right are determined as you face the front of the chair.

A deadblow hammer (from a home center; Photo 2) is a must for easy chair disassembly. A rubber mallet bounces too much and a wooden mallet mars the surface. Some joints easily fly apart. Others refuse to let loose. Always start hammering lightly and increase the force as needed. You'll clearly see, and feel, the joint move when the glue bond breaks.

Many chair legs have screws holding them to the seat. Not all are obvious; look for small screw or nail holes filled to match the chair finish. You're likely to chip a rung when you miss a well-hidden nail or screw. (See “Oops!” below). You may have to dig out small nails (Photo 4).

Once in a while the seat may split or crack apart. But this only adds an extra glue and clamp step (plus 24 hours) before reassembly.

Oops!

If you miss a nail, you'll probably split a rung when you knock the chair apart. Don't worry. This “disaster” is easily repaired. The damage is more cosmetic than structural. Pull the nail with a locking pliers and then finish disassembling the chair. Save all wood chips for regluing and clamping later, at reassembly.

Chipped chair rung
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Step 2: Reglue, assemble and clamp the chair

Once in a while the seat may split or crack apart. But this only adds an extra glue and clamp step (plus 24 hours) before reassembly.

Your new glue won't bond with the old glue. Sand down to bare wood to ensure a strong bond and a solid joint that will last (Photo 6). Our expert recommended a standard yellow carpenter's glue. The key to reassembly is to work quickly, because the glue begins to dry in a few minutes. Lay out seat and leg parts in a clear order according to your labels.

We recommend using bar clamps because they have the power to draw stubborn joints together (Photo 9). Use as many as needed to pull all joints tightly together. When you're finished, your chair should sit as solid as new.

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Special problem: Tighten a badly worn joint

Some joints are just too damaged to allow for a tight glue joint, especially when repairing areas that have broken several times. One way to save the chair is to use 24-hour epoxy as both a filler and a bonding agent. Keep the joint upside down so the epoxy doesn't run out. Scrape off excess epoxy while it's still soft.

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Special problem: Glue a split rung

Split rungs can be repaired without disassembling the chair. Wedge open each split and apply ample glue to each split piece. Get glue as far down the split as possible without actually splitting the rung further.

Securely clamp the repair with padded clamps. Tighten until the glue oozes out and the split edges realign and pull tight. But don't crank down too hard and squeeze all the glue out of the joint. Clean up excess glue with a damp cloth but don't get moisture into joint. Wait about 20 minutes until the excess glue looks like soft licorice, then lift it off by gently scraping with a chisel or utility knife. For a completely invisible fix, you'll have to sand the area with fine sandpaper, color-match the stain and revarnish.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hammer
  • Locking pliers
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Chisel
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Deadblow hammer

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Sandpaper, 100-grit
  • Wood filler
  • Epoxy