Walnut Victorian Balloon backed dining chair with broken leg.

A common break, unfortunately quite naturally at the weakest point

  I have seen so many old repairs in this area fail again and again, often the only way of a reliable repair is to replace this part of the leg, retaining the more complex shaped upper portion with a join well away from the vulnerable area where the side and back seat rails are jointed.

Victorian balloon backed chairs have quite a complex shaped rear leg, often quite slim with weakness at the joints. It is also quite common for the top rails to break, again due to a weak design. Many also have beech rails, prone to woodworm, the angle of the joints make them more vulnerable to being weakened by just a little woodworm attack. So if buying Balloon back chairs, check carefully to ensure a good solid frame with absolutely no movement in the joints (although don't mistake the flexing of the wood as loose joints).

  Shown above, the rear frame and broken leg removed from the rest of the chair.  The extent of the break can now be seen on the right.

Shown above, left: the broken leg temporarily glued back together to use as a template.

Right: The leg is cut at a point where a good strong joint can be achieved and glued to the replacement wood prior to cutting to its approximate shape.

Above,  before the new wood is shaped  more exactly, the mortise is cut and the rear frame dry assembled, the exact profile and shape can now be more accurately assessed by comparison with both the old leg and the opposite leg. Symmetry is more likely this way, sometimes old chairs can be twisted or distorted over time by natural movement and shrinkage in the wood, making an exact copy of a replacement leg can sometimes duplicate au unwanted distortion.

Shown above the leg beginning to take shape, this is done using spoke shaves and carving chisels.


Above left, rear frame glued up and bleached ready colour match and polish. Right, after polishing.

Below a closer view of the repair.