One (and only one) step above termite barf

I recently repaired the arm of this chair. It was from Ethan Allan about ten years ago. So I would have thought it would be built to last. All the joints are loose but what I fixed was the right arm, the front of which had separated from the right front leg.

This chair looks like it is built from good wood instead of the chip board or MDF that’s used in the furniture from the big-box stores, and has been coined “termite barf”. I think it’s a type of mahogany – dark red and fairly soft. Aside from the upholstery the quality ends there. When I took apart the arm I was surprised to find just one screw at the back and one dowel at the front was all that held the arm on. It looked like there was glue in the beginning, but that was irrelevant in end-grain butt joints.

The chair to repair

What’s really disappointing is that the chair will be impractical to repair when the rest of the joints fail, which shouldn’t be long. To fix these joints they will have to be completely rebuilt. Maybe someone with a horizontal boring machine or a domino could quickly do that with floating tenons. Otherwise I think it would be much faster (cheaper) to build a whole new chair.

This is all that held the arm to the back post


I made the mortises. The little dowel is all that held the arm to the front leg

Like my day-job, woodworking is mostly about problem solving. And the last photo shows an example of that in how I held the chair in my vise to chisel mortises into the front leg without the rest of the chair falling apart.

I problem-solved the chair into my vise so I could work on the front leg


About johnjoiner

Computer nerd by day, Dad and woodworker by night. Woodworking blog at
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One Response to One (and only one) step above termite barf

  1. JOTV says:

    Nice photos!

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