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Leg-o-matic chair fix

Posted 03-21-2021 at 01:48 PM by blickcd

When I bought my trailer years ago, it came with some nice wooden chairs for dining that folded up for easy stowage on the rare occasion that our gaucho was folded down into a bed.

The trailer has a front gaucho and fold down table, no dinette. A clever design for the chairs and they worked well but I never gave them much thought.

A few years ago, one of the chairs, the plywood centerpiece of the backrest started to delaminate and fall apart. Probably because it got the most use. Before deciding whether or not to repair or replace it, I looked up some information on these chairs.

The brand name is Leg-o-matic and they were standard equipment on Airstream trailers when mine was built in 1979. These are no longer made (no surprise) and you can find these for sale if you look, though some people want a lot of money for them as I guess there are somewhat of a collectable novelty. There were different designs for the centerpiece of the backrest and I thought I would take a shot at repairing it since I have some woodworking experience.

Now when I get on a roll with a project I donít like to stop and take a bunch of photos. I will try to describe what I did.

For disassembly, if you look at the back of the chair, at the top of the backrest, at each corner you will see the head of a small finish nail. I was able to pull those out with cutting pliers though the wood got gouged up a bit around the nail holes in the process.

I was then able to use a rubber mallet to tap on the bottom edge of the top piece of the backrest and pop it off. The vertical pieces are rounded at their top ends, and the top horizontal piece has round holes in it, and it was assembled with a press fit, no glue, just secured with finish nails. I was thrilled that the top came off easily, and the centerpiece just dropped out. It is set into grooves cut into the top and bottom horizontal pieces of the backrest.

Now I had thought about peeling the layers of plywood apart and re-gluing them, splicing in some new veneer to replace the missing pieces that had flaked off, but it looked like a lost cause.

I was able to pick up half a sheet of AB furniture plywood form a home improvement store. It was slightly thicker than the original. Anything thinner that they had was too thin or had a lousy looking grain.

You probably guessed that I used the original centerpiece as a pattern and traced it out on the plywood. For cutting it out, my original plan was to use a find wood blade on my saber saw, what some call a jig saw, but from experience I know it is difficult to get a really clean cut and I did not want to do a bunch of sanding on all those curves.

There is no way that I was going to spend a lot of money on a new scroll saw for this one project but I was able to find a used one for $75 on Facebook marketplace, and it was only a few miles away! The owner had bought it used for some project he did a few years ago, but then never needed it again and the machine was taking up space in his shop so he felt it was time to part with it. I suspect that history will repeat itselfÖ

I used a circular saw to cut out a square piece of the thin plywood on which the pattern was traced, as well as a few small pieces that were used for some practice cuts on the scroll saw.

That used scroll saw was well worth the $75. I had a replacement centerpiece cut out in no time. As I mentioned before this plywood was slightly thicker than the original. I used a belt sander to taper the top and bottom edges so it would fit in the groves on the backrest pieces.

I had to dry fit it several times to get it right, and the taper is not that obvious as I made it only at the edges, nearly undetectable once assembled.

Final assembly had to wait though. While the cuts were nice and smooth, close to the outlines I traced, the interior cutouts were rough in a few places in the tight turns. Sure, I had plenty more wood and could have made a second piece, but I was pretty sure I could smooth it up.

To smooth those out I used a small half round file, some round files of various diameters, and shanks of screwdrivers wrapped with fine grit sandpaper. I gave up on being a perfectionist years ago, but still got some really good results.

Matching the stain was a lot of trial and error. I worked on those scrap pieces of wood first. The blend turned out to be oak and barn red. Alternating coats of each, different drying times before wiping off, before it looked right. There was another dry fit with the other chair side-by-side to be sure the match was good before varnishing. The varnish used was a satin polyurethane.

For the final assembly I used the original finish nails after straightening them out. They are shorter than any brads I had on hand. The gouged out areas around their heads was filled with wood filler that I mixed with a blend of the stains. I had practiced that mix and filled some holes on scrap first of course. The wood filler job turned out okay. Since it is small areas it really isnít noticeable.

Once completed, placing the two chairs side-by-side, it is tough to tell which one is original and which one was repaired. Overall, this was not a tough job, but practicing with the scroll saw and stain first are the keys to good results.

Photos show the two chairs, one folded so you can see how that works. Another photo is of the self-destructed centerpiece that was removed and used for a pattern. Then the two chairs side-by-side when the work was done. The chair on the right is the one that was fixed, or perhaps it is the one on the left...
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