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Repairing – Regluing Dorsey Baker’s mid-1800’s Antique Chair…

January 21, 2013

During my Winter 2013 Break, I repaired some furniture for my friend, Doug S.  One of the pieces was an 1800’s chair that was originally owned by Walla Walla’s Dorsey Baker.  Baker was a physician and a entrepreneur.

He started the first bank (Baker-Boyer National Bank) in Washington State, financed a railroad, and financed some shipping on the Columbia River.  Baker also originally owned the property that our Shady Lawn Antiques shop sits on… maybe he sat in this chair when he signed the sales papers (we purchased the buildings and property in 1897)… then again maybe not.

In any case, the chair had been broken when it was knocked over.  Doug asked me to repair it.

This was an interesting project so I would like to describe it…

D Baker Chair (1)

Chair Repair Steps and Considerations

A.  Every broken or loose piece of furniture that I have ever seen is broken and/or loose in at least two places.  This chair was no exception.  As you look at the front of the chair it was broken at the upper left and at the lower right.

B.  The first step is to determine the extent of the breaks.  This is done by pulling the broken sections back into place, by hand.  In this case, I could pull the cracks back together but the chair was slightly sprung sideways as well.  This was something that I had to account for in devising a clamping system.

C.  I like to glue most pieces of furniture (back) together all at once.  That way I can adjust all of the clamping pressures so that everything fits together.  Clamping multiple joints at the same time means that I have to devise an appropriate clamping system.

D.  My clamping systems involve cutting a clamping caul (wooden block) to fit curved surfaces.  I want the clamping pressure to be perpendicular to the joint or the crack.   I also devise a way to hold that caul in place during the clamping.  Generally I clamp it to a part of the chair that won’t move as I squeeze the crack together.D Baker Chair (5)

In the picture above, the top two clamps are pulling the crack together and the bottom two are holding the caul in place.

E.  I dry fit (dry is without glue) and clamp each repair to make sure everything fits.  This is especially important in the case of an historical chair such as this – you only get one chance to glue it…

F.  I then apply a light coat of glue to both sides of each cracked or broken joint.  It is easiest to glue both joints before you apply any clamping pressure to either joint.

G.  One joint/break will always be the most difficult to pull into to position.  I tighten the clamps on that joint first.  I apply pressure to the second joint… then I loosen, move the pieces, and reapply pressure on each joint until everything is in alignment.D Baker Chair (4)Upper left hand crack…

H.  Finally I leave the clamps in place for twenty-four hours before I remove them.  This is longer that the recommended minimum amount of clamping time (often one hour).

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