A few weeks ago, I was at a flea market with a good friend. I found an exquisite chair that I just “had-to-have.” The price tag said $25. I pointed out the torn seat, the peeling paint and the wobbly legs. As it was, I told the vendor, it wasn’t safe to use. I paid a whopping $5 for the chair. My friend thought I was nuts, but knew my reputation for reclaiming furniture.
A few day’s work ended the loose joints. After finding the right material, the chair’s seat was recovered and the wood was finished. I gave the chair to my friend for a present. She uses it in a favorite reading corner. She was stunned that this turned out to be the $5 surprise.
It’s not hard to end wobbly legs on tables, chairs, beds or other furniture. Very few tools are needed. There may be times you have to take a chair apart in order to reglue the joints. Each piece of furniture has to be diagnosed on a case by case basis.
To fix wobbly furniture legs, you will need:
- · Wood glue
- · Wood file
- · Wood chisels
- · Sandpaper
- · Clamps- pipe clamps, strap clamps
- · Wood screws if needed
- · Wood dowels if needed
- · Drill and bits if needed
- · Hammer if needed
- · Various pieces of hardware, furniture repair kit if needed
Notice that a lot of the items are “if needed.” Again, you will have to gauge each piece of furniture on its own.
Determine why the furniture is wobbly.
If the joints are sound and do not squeak or move when pushed or pulled on, it could be that one leg is shorter than the others. Flip the furniture over and inspect the bottom of the legs. Does it appear that something is/was attached to some of the legs, but not one or more of the others?
You can make a spacer out of wood and attach it with construction glue. You can also attach a washer with a wood screw and glue a piece of felt on top of it.
The alternative is to shorten the other legs so everything is the same height.
What to do if a joint or two is loose.
There are syringes you can use to insert glue into a furniture joint. If you can’t locate one, take the joint apart and sand the old glue off the tenon. Use a small chisel to remove glue from the mortise. Spread new glue in the mortise and on the tenon and push the joint back together. Clamp until the glue is dry.
Not all joints are wooden mortise and tenon.
Turn the table or chair over. Some modern furniture is held together by butterfly nuts or regular nuts on bolts. Use a pair of pliers to tighten the joint.
If the wood is broken, determine if it can be glued back together. If the break is out of sight, reinforce the piece by inserting wood screws through the break after gluing. The screw acts to hold the wooden pieces together.
What to do if the dowel or tenon is broken.
This is common on old furniture. Sadly, most people throw the furniture out at this point, but it is an easy repair.
Cut the old tenon off the wood. Inspect the wood piece and the mortise to determine if further repairs are needed. If not, clean out the mortise with a wood chisel. Fill the mortise with wood putty or cut a piece of wood and glue it into the mortise hole.
Drill a hole in the wood piece and insert a dowel halfway. Mark the spot on the mortise piece and drill a hole to insert the dowel. Glue the dowel in place and clamp the piece together until the glue dries.
If you have to take a chair apart, be careful. There are tools available to spread chair legs safely and carefully. With older chairs, you can brace legs with metal corner braces. This adds strength to older pieces without taking away from it’s appearance.
By repairing wobbly legs on your furniture instead of replacing the pieces, you will save significant amounts of money. Update your furniture with paint, new finishes and hardware. You can even buy different legs for chairs, tables and dressers.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse forms of DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects, RV’ing and more.