Three Generations of Chair Repair and Carpentry

Woodworking has an extensive history in my family. Warren Beaman was a rural minister was also a cabinet maker in the mid-1800s. Heidi and Grandpa built boats, toys, bookshelves – you name it. My dad has built tables, book shelves, and jewelry boxes.

chairs that lived in the kitchen of the boatyard for decades

chairs that lived in the kitchen of the boatyard for decades

Each generation had it’s own fingerprint of wood working in their craftsmanship – the way they would cut, and the design, and fastening. My great-grandfather (Hidee) would use wooden pegs for fastening, my grandfather used two-part epoxy, and my dad uses a special mixture of wood glue.

A great example is this set of chairs that had been in the kitchen at the boatyard for decades. Hidee, Grandpa, and my dad all have their own woodworking techniques…I asked my dad to talk about the different ways the three of them worked with wood, using the chairs as an example…


Hidee's Peg

Hidee’s Peg repair (fig. 3)

Dad’s commentary (fig. 3): “This was a wholesale break.  You can see that the top of the chair was removed and replaced with a similar type of wood, though the grain does not match up.  There is a vertical line in the center of the piece attached.  If this were a keel on a boat, it would be called a scag.  The repair and reconstruction is clearly a Hidee fix because he was all about glue and pegs. He was very meticulous and would take great pains that everything lined up perfectly.  He would then use glue to connect the two pieces.  My guess is that this is Hidee’s rabbit or cat-gut glue, because it had a very long drying time and the pegs were needed to keep things stable while they dried even though they were clamped as well.  Chances are he finished the shaping using a spoke shave or draw knife.  Hidee thought fast drying, modern carpenter’s glue and a grinder were laziness.”

Hidee’s Chair Repair (fig. 4)

Dad’s Commentary (fig. 4): “This also appears to be a Hidee fix, and is another example of a scag.  You can see that the lower piece is a different grain.  Hidee probably fabricated a new lower section.  It looks like he did a great job of matching the wood color.  He did a fine job of matching the shape and angle of the new piece to the old.  As I said previously, he was meticulous.  I can’t see the peg well enough in the image, but if it appears more oval than round, it is probably going in at an angle.  Hidee would have been very concerned about making sure this was strong enough to not come apart, so my guess is that it is an angled peg.  My other guess is that the peg is showing end-grain, which would mean the peg would have stronger shear strength.  Plugs would have a grain pattern, because it would be covering a screw and wouldn’t need the shear strength.

grandpa’s fix (fig. 5)

Dad’s commentary (fig. 5): “This is more of a reinforcement than a repair. These chairs were originally made of bent oak, where they steamed the wood until it was pliable. They then put the wood into molds to conform to the proper shape. This made the wood very brittle, so chips and cracks are commonplace. This looks like a de-lamination and a crack. This is probably a Grandpa fix as it looks like epoxy, which was signature cure-all. I am only surprised he didn’t sand it down better. He probably decided to not use the chair, or got distracted and never finished. However, this looks to be one of the chairs used in the kitchen; I recognize the cushion and the paint splatters.”

dad's repair

dad’s repair (fig. 6)

Dad’s Commentary (fig. 6): “This is one of my repairs.  The leg was completely fractured in half.  You can see that he grain and the crack line up perfectly, but that there is a tiny gap (about 1/16-inch at the bottom, where the fibers of the wood were compressed.  I reattached this using the scagging method I described before, but this was with the same wood, rather than a separate piece.  Usually, scagging is two separate pieces.  I had to decide whether or not I should reshape the wood for a perfect fit, thereby throwing off the grain slightly, or leave the slight gap and preserve the grain.  I felt, given the numerous repairs on this chair, to keep the slight flaw visible as another clear generation of repair.  Like JDW III, I honored the wood as the wood; like JDW IV, I used a two-part epoxy to guarantee a quality bond.  No wood pins required for stability, though I could put one so it would look more like a more traditional Hidee styled fix.”

break that dad fixed

break that dad fixed

“I used epoxy and clamps, more like Grandpa.  I don’t have time to boil rabbit skin or cat gut glue like Hidee did, and the epoxys are stronger than the original wood.  I wish I had the time to be meticulous like Hidee, but nothing would ever get done.  I did respect the old man’s beautiful meticulous work. Grandpa also did beautiful work and was able to do amazing things with the tools and materials that Hidee thought was lazy.  It gave Grandpa a wider set of creativity that Hidee could never embrace.”

dad's repairing the chair

dad’s repairing the chair

My mom pitched in with the bulk of the work on the finished look – sanding, staining, and re-upholstering the cushions. A whole family project:

before and after chair repair

before and after chair repair



One response to “Three Generations of Chair Repair and Carpentry

  1. Pingback: What’s been going on at the CreationStation… | EmaBee's Art·

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