While I assembled a Scottish-inspired stick chair this week, I struck one of the wedges at a bad angle. This caused half of the tenon to snap off. Worse, the damage occurred about 1/16” below the surface of the chair’s armbow. It left a giant crater that couldn’t be planed away.
The funny thing: I smiled after it happened.
After 17 years of building these stick chairs, I enjoy making an occasional repair. It’s an opportunity to think, mess around a little and maybe even make the problem worse. Here’s how I dealt with this torn tenon.
When this has happened in the past, I have drilled out the entire top of the tenon with a Forstner bit, then filled the hole with one of the pieces of waste left from sawing the tenon flush. This works great if you can find the center of the tenon.
In this case, however, I decided to excavate only the torn section of the tenon with a chisel and a gouge. Then patch the half-circle with waste left over from sawing the tenon flush.
The first step was to chop out the torn section of the tenon. I did most of the work with a 1/8” chisel and a gouge with a tight sweep. The goal was to get the bottom of the hole as flat as possible and to leave just a sliver of the original tenon on the walls. I also deepened the hole from 1/16” to 1/8” to give the patch some more wood to grab onto.
Then I took the broken waste tenon and sawed off the broken section. I clamped the waste in a handscrew and used a flush-cut saw to remove the torn section. This created a plug with a flat surface that would meet the flat bottom of the hole.
I put some hide glue in the hole and tapped the plug into the hole. It took about five good taps, but the plug seated flat and squeezed out a good bit of glue. The whole repair took about 30 minutes.
— Christopher Schwarz
19 thoughts on “Fix a Torn Tenon”
Very nice fix. I would never, ever have spotted it.
Thank you Sensei.
I’d have kept it. I often like to see the mistakes I made, they tell a story.
My customer would likely object.
You could have filled it with a nice aquamarine epoxy.
Are your wedges wider than the tenon and hole? Looks like you key them into the armbow.
Yes. The tenon is 5/8″ and the wedges are 11/16″ wide. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to drill out the entire tenon – the wedge might be difficult to match up with the little bits that bite into the armbow.
That is a good way to fix that problem. I noticed that your wedge is a little wider than the tenon. On the chairs I am making now I cut the wedges the same width as the tenons. So my question is there a reason you did it the way you did?
Looks great. What kind of wood were you working with?
The chair is white oak. The wedges are ash.
So simple, so good. And thanks for the reminder to use a handscrew. I have two in a bin that just sit there. I’ll dig one out tonight. Cheers!
Neat how we all have different ways of accomplishing the same things. I can’t imagine not having wood screw clamps around. As soon as I gave myself permission to glue, screw, paint, drill, or whatever to them, the wood screw clamps became so much more relevant and useful.
Now I know why Veritas makes miniature tools. If you had one of their microscopic router planes you could have used it to flatten the bottom of the half moon socket.
I was just reading it and thinking how much swearing I would have done and then left the chair almost done for years shoved in a corner somewhere. Well done!
First-class repair! Wood filler would have left an unsightly spot. Very well done.
While during my tenure in the US Army Ordnance Corps as a small arms repairer. we had a saying in the shop… “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.” This correction to the problem is the epitome of that. It completely does as intended as well as CYA!
Nice repair Chris. I guess you discounted a Philips head screw early on?
Nice job! Futsy work like this has it’s own reward. A hidden advantage to keep in mind is having longer tenons than plans would normally call for! So, are you going to start doing end grain inlays in more of your chairs? Is a Dremel with an 1/8″ router bit considered a hand tool? This was only a test, in a real emergency…
I’ve always said, it’s the mark of a professional in how well he/she hides their mistakes. Bravo!
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