How to repair a broken chair stretcher

I see a lot of bad repair jobs come through my shop and most of the time, the furniture is here to have the repair repaired! I thought I'd publish an article on correctly performing a very common repair on a typical chair - a broken stretcher. I've seen repairs using everything from sheetrock screws to duct tape and everything in between but instead of reaching for the Gorilla glue(this stuff doesn't belong on the list of things that exist on our planet), you may as well fix it in a lasting way.

It's difficult to say what the hardest part of this repair is.  Some shops would argue it's in the shaping of the new wood, while others might contend that matching the color and finish of the new wood to the old is where they struggle.  As for me, I don't break it down that way.  This whole process to me, is pure fun.  I love matching things and trying to make it look like it never happened - it's a challenge every time, but always entertaining.

Lets move on and I'll show you exactly what happens when you bring a poor little chair with a broken stretcher to Classic Furniture Works.  It's worth mentioning that this repair method applies to more than just a broken stretcher - this technique is the correct way to repair many furniture breaks including chair back spindles and legs, table legs and more. It's a solid method and properly executed, it's literally as strong as it was new.

16 Comments

  1. Sharron L Gurman on July 31, 2016 at 10:26 am

    That is so cool to see how it is done right. Very impressive. Thax

    • Mike on August 8, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks!

  2. Patty Soriano on December 2, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Mike, I am having this issue right now with a broken stretcher in the front. Hubby and I have refinished and repaired furniture for quite awhile, learning from my parents who did it for a long time. We have all the tools, so no problem there. My question is How did you cut the stretcher and dowel to match at the same angle ? Thank you !

    • Mike on December 2, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Patty – It’s all in the wrist… Just kidding:)

      In all seriousness, the angle isn’t as important as the grain run and length of the joint. After you cut the bad part off the stretcher, you could literally glue a 12″ x 12″ block of wood onto it as long as the grain run is good. Once you’re done with the glue up, it’s all trimming from there. Get it close on your bandsaw, then finish up with a draw knife, spoke shave, or heck, even a belt sander if you’ve got steady hands.

      Good luck!

  3. Cheryl on December 14, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    What kind of chisel is that? I have a Narex corner chisel but your chisel is more rounded.

    • Mike on December 17, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      The chisel in the picture is a Narex.

  4. Cheryl on December 22, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Thanks Mike….Yes I can see the Narex brand name on the chisel but it looks concave to me but I can’t find any Narex chisels that are concave like that. Is the image just misleading me and it’s actually a flat chisel?

    • Mike on December 27, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      That’s because I hollow grind my chisels.

  5. Valerie on March 14, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    My chair’s stretcher is not broken but has come out of the holes. I want to reglue it. What type or brand of glue do I need? I know that I will need to strap the legs together while the glue dries. Thanks so much for your advice.

    • Mike on March 16, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Hey Valerie!

      Really any wood glue is fine, as long as it is not a polyurethane glue, such as Gorilla Glue. Just some normal yellow wood glue would do the trick, and for that task, I prefer not clamping if I don’t need to. Set the chair on a dead flat surface, glue the joint and press together, and if all is well, leave it sit there until dry.

  6. Joe Pollarine on July 29, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Mike I have need of a replacement rung for a oak kitchen chair it’s 13 inches long and a plain rung any suggestions ? Thanks joe

    • Mike on July 31, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Sent you an email Joe.

  7. Art Rothenstein on November 20, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Hi Mike, I need an oak stretcher/rung for the back of a rocking chair thats 13″-14″ long. Can you suggest a place where I can get one? I’m in Atlanta, GA. Thanks

    • Mike on November 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Hey Art! Not sure where to send you because I make my own spindles as needed. Sorry!

  8. Russ Long on November 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I have a broken rung where the tenon go into the leg. Can you make a angle cut on the existing rung and make new tenons for each end? Or do you know a place to get a replacement rung. Oak, no design, wide in the middle, and tapers down to the tenons.

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