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No question of giving up a bulky old chair, even condemned by professionals! A good handyman always finds solutions and the patience necessary to restore it. History of the successful renovation of a Louis XV armchair.

Repair and refurbish a stylish chair

Practical tip

Ready to upholster
Deliver to the upholsterer a brand new carcass is a prerequisite.

  • The visible parts are first of all finely sanded (240 grit) and dusted with care.
  • They then receive three layers of cellulosic fadeeach followed by a shelling with steel wool 000.
  • The finish proper associates a matine (with shellac) and a natural beeswax. The first serves a dual function: to protect against stains while giving depth to the wax, which is then passed.
  • The glazing, with a nylon brush and then a soft, lint-free cloth, comes 24 hours later.

For dressing, it is an ethnic fabric that has been selected. It may sound bold for a furniture style, but it's in the air!

This shepherdess Louis XV is a family furniture. Acquired at the flea market in Saint-Ouen around 1900, it followed its owners in eastern France and served them for decades. Before ending up in the attic where we found her...
The dressing fabric seems original but the structure has obviously suffered. As the tapestry work will be entrusted to a craftsman, restoration will only concern the carcass.

Removing the seat

This operation consists of expose the carcass: removal of the covering fabric, white cloth, embers (horsehair), strong cloth, strapping (springs) and straps. Given the state of dilapidation of the seat (compressed hair, rusty springs and slackened, straps distended...), all will need to be replaced. Only the folder will be reused, with additional trim.
First, we have to extract one by one the golden nails adorning the belt, using a chisel, a small crowbar, an old screwdriver... Same thing for seeds fixing the different canvases and the straps. To remove an old nail (which often holds bad surprises), the technique is as follows: slide the blade of the chisel or screwdriver under the head then give a blow with a mallet to leverage. It is important to hold the instrument inclined in the direction of the fibers, to avoid splitting the wood.

Estimate the damage

The belt is in four parts, assembled by tenons and mortises on the base. The front has a curved cross, type cocked hat, whose design and moldings form a whole with the feet. The two side pieces and the rear cross describe a continuous arc.
The strength of assemblies is proven by pressing one hand on the front of the belt and the other on the backrest. In addition to important games, the examination confirms the fragility of the rear crossbar, which has many worm holes. The original reinforcements are hardly better off.
By chance, the visible parts (feet, armrests, hanger of the file...) are in good state. Restoration will therefore be limited to the offending assemblies and four reinforcements of the seat: two brackets at the front, and two bridges at the back. Thus, no risk of breaking a tenon disassembly, which happens frequently in this type of operation.

Chair repairs

  • In the presence of important games, the simplest solution is to remove the tenon from his mortise, with the blade of a big screwdriver for example, then to instill strong glue and tighten the assembly (with a ratchet strap for example). The glue used, based on bones and nerves, is heated in a water bath at 80° maximum. Its grip is fast and the assembly remains reversible (imperative!) For possible repairs.
  • For to separate an assemblyFirst, soften the old glue by injecting the syringe with a solution of 80% lukewarm water and 20% 95% alcohol (or varnish). We can also help ourselves thermal cleaner, set at moderate temperature (300°) and never staying on the same point not to burn the wood. Once disjoined pieces (carefully), they are heated to disintegrate the old glue they are impregnated. The crystallized residues are removed by rasp before hot gluing and put in clamping.
  • The fourth belt reinforcements are removed and used as models for make jigs cardboard-based. Their contours are then plotted on a 40 mm thick beech plank, orienting the wood grain in the diagonal (very important for solidity!). Each piece is then carefully cut with a jigsaw or ribbon (equipped with a scrolling blade), then pierced with two countersunk holes for fixing. It is better to offset these holes compared to those of origin, which will be re-stuffed by a wooden peg.
  • For'optimize adhesionthe parts to be assembled are preheated (for example with a heat gun) before gluing. Set up and screwing take place immediately because of the quick setting of the glue. The repair also provides an opportunity to change the cleats used to secure the trim fabric to the base of the armrests.
  • The back, ample and inclined backwards, creates constraints at this level of the belt. For consolidate the whole, we have planned a metal reinforcement admittedly unorthodox but of solidity to any test. It consists of a flat iron hanger of 40 x 3 mm section, on which are welded three legs, also flat iron but 30 x 3 mm. Their positioning is calculated so that they come flat on the back of the side and central amounts of the file. Pre-drilled, this reinforcement is simply fixed by screwing (TF screw Ø 4 x 25 mm). It will be painted or varnished before being covered by the covering fabric, to prevent rust stains.
  • Given the condition of the belt, it is prudent toapply insecticide and fungicide on the whole carcass. The operation is carried out by impregnation (with the brush) on the healthy parts and by injection (with a special bomb) on the zones attacked. The nail holes are then filled with a two-component paste (resin + hardener), spatula deposited and sanded after drying.

Exposing the chair

Louis XV armchair to renovate

  • Here is the chair as it appears once the seat receding and the dressing fabric removed. You do not have to be an expert to spot damaged parts, whether it's the wood itself or assemblies.

Repair joints and reinforcements of the seat

Saw reinforcements from the chair

  • Disassemble old reinforcements carefully.
  • If one of them resists too much after unscrewing, it can be sawed (by hand or saw backpack) without attacking the wood of the belt.

Make new reinforcements in hardwood

  • Use old belt reinforcements (squares, bridges, cleats) as templates for making cardboard templates.
  • Cut into new hardwood reinforcements, copies of the old ones.

Use animal glue heated in a bain-marie

  • Old-fashioned work requires respect for the principle of reversibility of repairs.
  • Use an animal glue (bones and nerves) heated in a water bath.

Glue reinforcements

  • With the heat gun set to low temperature, preheat the reinforcement and its support taking care not to burn the wood.
  • Then assemble quickly.
  • Throughout the repair, make sure the glue stays at a good temperature.

Hold the new reinforcement with a clamp

  • For convenience, hold the workpiece in place with a clamp.
  • To screw.

Solidarize the new squares

  • At the junction of the front cross member and the armrests, remember to remove the old cleats before attaching the new brackets.
  • Like the reinforcements, the cleats are redone identically and cut in beech.

Collet and screw the cleats

  • Glue and screw the cleats on both sides. They will nail the fabric at this level without damaging the wood of the armrests.

Treat the armchair wood

Apply the treatment product with a flat brush

  • On heavily attacked parts, inject the treatment product with an aerosol can with a special cannula.
  • Elsewhere, apply it by impregnation with a flat brush.

Cover the belt with a two-component paste

  • The old nails left a lot of traces in the belt. To facilitate the installation of the new seeds, apply a two-component paste by spatula pressing well into the holes.

Sand the seat belt

  • Wait for the drying to finish, the mixture hardening in about fifteen minutes.
  • Then sand without excess with a coarse abrasive: here, a paper No. 80 corundum, placed on a rubber wedge.

Consolidate the seat

Lay a metal coat hanger on the backrest

In use, the seat undergoes heavy stresses at the belt / backrest junction.

  • Tip very System D: use a metal hanger to consolidate everything. It will be invisible under the dressing fabric.

Reinforce the armrests of the armchair

  • For the same reason, strengthen the armrests by gussets at their assembly with the backrest. They did not exist at the beginning, but some freedoms sometimes prove necessary.


Video Instruction: How to upholster a chair | Beginner Level