The Chair From Hell

When someone says “I spotted a wood chair sitting on the curb, do you want it?”.  I ask no questions. I can’t imagine not being able to repair any thing made of wood.  Well, I finally found one that was made so shoddy that while I have taken it all apart, glued and repaired as much as I could (and I have to say it came out nicely), this is definitely not the best made piece of wooden furniture, but here it finally is, done and ready for its new home.

Here is what I first saw, a real wood chair needing some love.  I didn’t bother to look it over.


The first thing I noticed was that it was very wobbly.  Not a problem some wood or gorilla glue can’t fix.  But in taking it apart I noticed there were more problems than just lose bolts.


Can you see in the top hole there is a metal piece for screwing in the bolt?  The bottom one is missing. The chair doesn’t appear to ever have been worked on so I’m assuming it was never there to begin with.

Taking a closer look at the frame of the chair I found this.


Here are a couple  more views of the “split” wooden frame.


Can you see what they did?  I’ll give you one more view to figure it out.


If you aren’t sure yet I’ll tell you.  Instead of using one piece of wood to make the back piece which looks like one solid piece of wood from the very top to the very bottom of the rear legs, they (I’m assuming) wanted to have less scrap and used a narrower piece,  to then make the curve in the design they added another piece to the main section.

Here is a view of the opposite side.  There is a knot in the wood that you can see was cut then another piece of wood added, and the line shows where the two pieces were joined.  Talk about cutting corners.


I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned the chair over I found this on the bottom of the seat.


Sanding wasn’t much of a problem because while this is a wooden chair, whatever they used to create the finish was neither a stain which would have seeped into the wood, nor a veneer.  It was almost as if this was some type of spray finish with a light-weight plastic compound in it. I’ve never worked on any thing even close to this before so I have no idea what was used.  You can see from this shot how it was barely adhering to the wood.


No that’s not spilled paint on the wood, it’s the finish peeling off. It literally was peeling away from the wood in a good many places and resembled a thin piece of paper. Any where there was an edge, such as  the corners of the legs, the coating was peeling.

At his point I would like to add a little rant.  When you buy something with an intended purpose, such as a chair you should use it in the way it was intended.  No I’m not saying you can’t stand on the chair to reach something up high, that to me is a part of what chairs are used for.  What I mean is a chair is meant to sit on 4 legs.  It’s the 4 legs that give you the safety of knowing you won’t fall on your head when eating a meal in your chair.

So when you buy cheap China crap, you should really take the time to remember this piece of furniture was made as inexpensively as possible.  Therefore consider that to cut costs the cheapest materials were used and your item will not hold up to rough usage.  In this case the wood is one of the softest woods I’ve ever worked on in furniture.  Note the damage on the bottom of the rear legs (in the next picture) as a result of rocking the chair backwards to sit on only the two rear legs.


The worn damage wasn’t just on the bottom of the legs but was found on the very top of the chair as well. Luckily, the wood being very soft was easy to sand to at least come closely to resembling the other side.  The problem is that with wood this soft it tended to crumble with any more than a tiny bit of pressure during sanding.

To give you another idea of how shoddy the finish was take a look at this next picture.  This is the seat which has been completely sanded top, sides and bottom.  I set the actual amount of sandpaper on the seat to show you just how much was used on this area.


One thing about my sandpaper.  I was running low and made a comment that I needed to get to the store to get more.  I shop for all my hardware needs at the locally owned store, where they carry American made products only if available,  a friend offered to pick some up for me which was really nice of her.   When I pulled the first sheet out of the package I had to look to see if this was the proper grit (60) that I asked for. It was but it was so much thinner and flimsier than what I am used to. Upon closer inspection I noticed that this was 3M brand, made in China.  If this had been a normal project this  paper would not have held up the way better brands do, so if you are looking for sand paper, consider spending a little more and getting a brand that will hold up for much longer. (Rant over, sorry about that)

Not sure if you can see very clearly what is in this next picture, so I will give you a little background.  Before sanding I looked the chair over carefully noting the scratches in the surface.  Not a problem.  As I began to sand I noticed that whatever finish this was it had a resilient property in that it didn’t scratch off but was forced down into the wood.  Okay nothing a little more sanding wouldn’t take care of.

But as I removed the finish what I found were way too numerous number of scratches in the wood that was simply hidden by the finish.  I’m talking about both small and large scratches.  Here is one of the larger scratches.  It was a nearly 7.5 inches long.


In repairing the split on the one side, I have to point out I don’t have C clamps.  In gluing the wood back together I held it in place with a pair of adjustable pliers, when the glue was close to set and my hands were cramped I used something I did have to keep weight on the wood.  Here’s what I came up with.


Yes, I lifted the end of the loveseat and slid the chair under the leg.  This actually worked quite well, so for anyone who might want to try repairing something but don’t have the proper tools, think outside the box.

Here is the portion of the chair I had to glue back together.   I glued, then used a wood filler to even out and gave it another sanding.  Unfortunately, in certain lighting once painted I can see where it was repaired.  I have to deliver this tomorrow so I don’t have the time to strip it, I will have to live with it for now and repair it later.


It was time to put all the pieces back together again.  I love this tool and have had it just over 20 years now.  I purchased this when all Craftsman tools were made in the USA. You can see it’s had plenty of use.
Compact allen wrenches.
Compact allen wrenches.

So after a very lengthy process, here is the finished chair about to be transported to its new home.


I’d say quite a difference from this:




Finally, I realized I hadn’t shared with you the most surprising thing. Other than some sand paper and polycrylic, I have only purchased one package of milk paint and this week was the first can of paint I had to purchase.  Until this every thing I’ve done for the last year was completed using free paint others were going to throw out.

Moral of this story:  If you find a piece of furniture that has a price which is too good to be true, it probably is.  Don’t waste your money on things that were shoddy made, you will only need to repair it soon or replace it.

My lesson:  Ask the condition before saying yes to a piece of furniture found on the curb.  I have already disregarded this as I had a knock on my door asking me if I want 2 kitchen chairs found in the dumpster.  I laughed and said yes, they will be arriving this afternoon.  Maybe one day I will regret my decision to say yes sight unseen, but so far I haven’t met anything I couldn’t some how fix or repurpose.  To be continued….




  1. As I was reading this and all of the gluing you were doing, I wondered if you had clamps because you have never mentioned them before. My husband says that he can’t live without his clamps. I think you should ask for some for your birthday.
    What kind of wood crumbles? Was it a pressed wood product?


    • I did do that 🙂 I was also able to add the desired 4th chair to my son’s dining room they wanted, by using the same exactly colors this chair will work nicely and saves them plenty of money, and they love them. Although my son refused to accept these as a gift and paid me $20 so I would have a fund for supplies, he said. Even at that 4 solid wood chairs for $20 is quite a steal, and to think all 4 would have been taking up room in some landfill.


    • Thanks, Heidi, it was a lot of work and while I did make it sound like I was complaining (which I realized after clicking the publish button) I saw it as a challenge, there isn’t much more soothing to me than to sand a piece of wood without electricity and see the bare wood begin to peek through, and I am decently happy with how it turned out.


  2. I wonder if you couldn’t sell your re-creations on consignment- you do such a good job. This goes to show it would be much better to buy a good used set of furniture made well than to buy a shoddy new item at the discount superstore.


    • Thank you! I am considering selling some of the pieces I work on at a local store. I’ve tried Craigslist, but it can take quite a while to get a buyer and in that time the pieces take up space in the apartment. I give family (especially) and friends the opportunity to have things they need, after that they are sold or given away to people who are in need.

      Exactly!! I hate to see people buying that junk at the stores. My ex bought a drop leaf table and two chairs for his apartment from Walmart. The chairs were wobbly when he bought them, but some where in his mind he figured they would hold up. I’ve already replaced both chairs for him with better chairs and am waiting to be asked to do something with the table as it is slowly becoming weak.


  3. Well done on bringing a broken chair back into use. This looks like great craftsmanship. I agree, it is better to pay a little extra for durability and reliability.


  4. Holy Moly! I’m so impressed! I fear I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. Most of my furniture came from the dumpster too, but I’m far too lazy to fix it up like that. I’ll Re-upholster a crummy cushion or tighten some screws, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go. If it calls for sandpaper or paint I’m out! 🙂


    • I find sanding to be relaxing, but I do get frustrated with the poor craftsmanship when it comes to things like this. I will grumble about how a tree was cut down to make a shoddy item, I mean if you are going to use the natural resources at least take the time to make the item well so it will hold up. Painting is even more fun for me than sanding. I have two more dumpster finds that I am shaking my head at as we speak, but I promise no rant on those when I share them.


  5. I bet its original owner was pleased to get a chair made of real wood for the price. You gave it much better treatment than it deserved – fortunately, because that was a great enviro save!


    • I have wondered what the original owner thought when the chair didn’t hold up they way they expected it to. Were they angry about the amount of money they spent or are they used to having to replace things regularly and take it for granted that it would only last a short while.


    • Thank you. No it wasn’t stapled together, but that might have been an improvement to the cost cutting choices they made. I have two new chairs to work on, I was surprised by how sturdy the legs were when the spokes on the back were so bad. When I turned them over I found plastic pieces that are set into the bottom of the seat and hold the legs. Plastic? That’s a new one for me. The rest of the chairs are all wood so this piece has me wondering what is going on.


  6. I’ve stumbled across a chair with the exact same problem with the leg! How in the world did you fix it? I can’t even figure out what the metal piece is called to get a replacement.


    • The metal piece has a name but for the life of me it escapes me right now. Even if you were to find a piece the proper size to fit your chair you would still need to get it to stay in the chair. My suggestion, and what I did, was to dampen the hole add a bit more gorilla glue than I normally would have then put the chair together and clamp it together. The gorilla glue will expand as a reaction to the water and adhere to the screw and the wood. You won’t have to worry about it ever coming apart again.

      Good luck with your chair.


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