Replacing Wooden Dowels in Chairs

Many furniture pieces tend to fall apart over time. This is especially common of antiques or any furniture which may bear the brunt of weight, such as chairs. This may be particularly true of chairs with backrests made of dowels. Certainly, when it comes to antiques, the goal is to maintain the unique, aged piece for as long as possible. And as it pertains to more modern day styles of furniture, the goal is to maintain each piece for as long as the style remains chic and to the owner’s liking, as well as to maintain it for as long as possible in order to conserve economically. Should mishaps happen to a chair’s backrest, however, you may be able to salvage it by replacing the wooden dowels on your own.

Start by removing the weakened or broken dowel. If the dowel doesn’t come loose on its own, you may have to use pliers, a claw hammer, or even a drill to loosen it, depending upon the original design and method used to secure the dowel. This will need to be done for the joints at both the top and the bottom of the backrest.

Next, remove any residual of the original glue that remains in the dowel joint. You can use rubbing alcohol or a water and vinegar mixture to soften the remaining glue. If the dowel joint is large enough to allow it, use a cloth to remove the residual glue by wiping it away. If the dowel joint is too small to allow that, however, you may use a drill with a small 1/8 drill bit to gently drill away the residual glue. As with removing the dowel, this will have to be done on both the top and the bottom of the backrest, anywhere wood glue residual is observed.

Use the dowel you’ve removed to gauge the approximate width and length of the wood dowel you will need to replace it. Depending upon any breaks or other defects, this may not provide an exact measurement, but can certainly assist in a useful estimation.

Once the replacement dowel is measured, cut, sanded, or any combination of these preparatory actions, apply wood glue on either end. Also, apply a nominal amount of wood glue into the joint in which the replacement dowel will be inserted.

Then, carefully insert the replacement dowel into the joint. Use a damp cloth to remove any excess wood glue that may spill over once the dowel is inserted. You may use a clamp to secure the replacement dowel until it dries completely.

Once the replacement dowel is completely dry, tested as secure, and the clamp removed, paint the new dowel with the same or a highly similar color as the remainder of the chair. If the chair is stained, stain the new dowel with the same or a highly similar finish.

With minimal investment, a hardwood dowel can be used to salvage your chairs and any number of other furniture pieces which might cost a considerable amount if replacements are purchased. A dowel’s versatility and a woodworker’s imagination can make so much using so little!