This rocking chair is a family heirloom piece that belonged to my customers mother. It was purchased in the 80’s in an antique store. After years of use, the joints began to get loose and I imagine a crack began to form in the seat. The husband was a mechanic and added metal strapping and screws to help preserve the chair, as well as some wood glue. I am sure at the time it seemed to help, but eventually these efforts did not produce a lasting repair.
I don’t know that I got good pictures of the spindle that had been replaced, but I think her husband had hand carved a replacement that actually was hard to notice unless you looked at the details of the chair.
When I worked on this chair, I ended up taking almost the whole chair apart. It was originally built with hide glue and I used the same to repair it. Hide glue does eventually break down with use and temperature/humidity changes. But it lasted these many years already, and it will stick to itself unlike the modern glues we have now. It also fills gaps that are common in the hand cut joinery you find in furniture. Now, I will say that hide glue has it’s place in repair work. It was used in the joints and that is where I use it. In the situation of the seat split, I cleaned out the yellow wood glue and used Titebond wood glue with clamps to make a permanent repair. Wood glue is stronger than wood and if it is clamped with both surfaces touching without voids, it is a perfect choice for this application. So many times I have to dig yellow glue out of mortises and scrape it off of tenons so I can use hide glue to make a lasting and repairable repair for the next craftsman years down the road.
After re-gluing the chair I colored the new spindle and refurbished the chair. Refurbishing is when you clean the chair and then wipe it down with a stain to color the wood where scratches or nicks are. Add finish and you end with a coat or two of wax and the chair is ready to be used again for years to come. As this chair gets passed on, it’s story is added to.
Projects like this are why I love my job. I get to preserve the furniture built by craftsmen who put their utmost into every piece they built and help show the value of that heirloom as the work of art that it is.