Quick Fixes for Broken Furniture

Furniture inevitably breaks sometimes. Follow these tips for giving pieces a quick fix.
use glue under pressure on loose chair rungs

use glue under pressure on loose chair rungs

Fix a loose chair joint with wood glue and a homemade "tourniquet."

Most furniture that's older than six months is going to need something fixed, and people don't realize that most basic repairs are fairly simple. Here are a few ways to make quick fixes on wood furniture.

Loose chair rungs should always be fixed, because no one wants to sit in the chair and go sprawling. If the rest of the joints are still in good shape, pull the loose rung as far out of the socket as possible, squirt a liberal amount of woodworker's glue on it and pop it back together. But for the glue to work, it must dry under pressure. Use a pipe clamp if possible. If not, after putting the rung back in the socket, tie a rope around the legs. Then insert a dowel (or a short stick) in the knot and tighten the rope to the desired pressure by turning the dowel. Then slip the dowel behind the chair rung to keep the rope taut and let the glue dry for 24 hours before removing the rope/dowel contraption. Be sure to wipe off the excess glue before it dries.

Wobbly furniture legs can often be remedied by upending the furniture and then tightening the bolt, nut, or screw that connects the leg to the piece.

White water rings on table tops are moisture trapped below the finish. If the ring is fresh, immediately use a blow dryer set on low heat to evaporate the ring. To remove a ring that's been there for a long time, use abrasion. Try buffing the water ring lightly with fine-grade steel wool, dipped in lemon oil so it doesn't scratch the surface. After taking care of the ring, use lemon oil on the whole surface so it all matches, and then use a rag to remove any excess lemon oil.

Nicks and scratches used to require a whole quart of stain, but now there is an assortment of stain markers. Pick a color that matches the wood, draw the tip over the nick or scratch, and then wipe off the excess with a cloth. The scratch won't disappear altogether, but it will be the same color as the rest of the piece of furniture and not nearly so noticeable.

Blobs of wax come off easily if hardened by laying ice cubes on top. Then use a credit card, spatula-style, to scrape the wax up.

Drawers that stick can often be remedied with wax. Rub an old candle along the runners and the guides inside the table or cabinet.

Small holes, such as a nail hole in a joint, will disappear if you use your finger to fill them with a little bit of tinted wood putty (the color of the wood, naturally).

More advice:

- The pores in wood need woodworker's glue, so save the super glue for plastic and glass.

- For tables with one leg shorter than the rest, buy a furniture glide, in either metal or nylon, from a hardware or home store. Tap it onto the short leg, and it will add an eighth of an inch to the height.

- Use lemon oil when dusting to add some shine. It doesn't last very long, about two weeks or so, by which time it's time to dust again. Paste wax is more of a finish for antiques. About once a year, rub it on and allow it to harden for about 10 minutes before buffing the piece. That will leave a shine that will last for several months.

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