Bentwood furniture is highly recognizable because it has a curved, rounded or otherwise bent pieces of timber to form the arms or back of a chair. Some pieces of bentwood furniture is a series of elaborate turns and twists, while other bentwood has just a curved back with a second curve inside the first. Excess stress on the timber, accidently knocking the chair over or banging it into a wall can cause a part of the bentwood to split or break. Usually bentwood chair breaks occur on the bent pieces of the timber rather than any straight sections. The curved section is generally more fragile because it turns, bends or twists in an unnatural way. It is possible to repair the bentwood chair back and restore the chair.
Repairing Bentwood Furniture
Carefully lift the splitting timber without breaking it. Lift it enough to see the timber under it and clean out small, loose splinters, dirt or old glue with a screwdriver or the point of a utility knife.
Wet three or four rags in hot water -- wear rubber gloves when you do this to protect your hands from the heat. Wring out some of the water. You want the rags to be wet, but not dripping on the floor. Wrap the hot, wet rags over the split piece of timber. Wrap the section of the bentwood back tightly, but not so tightly that it snaps the split-section of the chair back.
Plug in a clothes iron and turn it to its hottest setting. Move the iron back and forth over the rag just above the section of split timber. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes to steam and soften the timber so it can be moved without breaking it. Re-wet the rags as necessary to keep them forming steam when the hot iron is placed on them.
Take the rags off the back of the bentwood chair. Test the timber for flexibility. If the timber does not bend easily, reapply the rags and heat of the iron for five to 10 minutes at a time until the wood becomes pliable.
Press the split section in place with your hand. Put a pipe clamp around the split and tighten it with a screwdriver. Add as many pipe clamps as necessary to cover the damaged section and tighten them. Let the bentwood chair air dry for 24 hours.
Loosen the pipe clamps -- don't worry the wood is supposed to separate from the back at this point, but only slightly.
Use a paintbrush to coat the inside of the split with wood glue. Be generous applying the wood glue. Press the split back in place by hand and wipe off oozing wood glue. Wrap a sheet of wax paper around the repair and put the pipe clamps back in place. Tighten the clamps and let the glue dry for 48 hours.
Remove the clamps and the wax paper. Fill in the scratches around the split wood with liquid scratch cover and add a coat of paste furniture wax after the scratch cover dries. If there are nicks to the wood or missing sections along the split, press a matching color wood putty into the damaged wood. Let the wood putty dry for two to three hours. Sand the wood putty smooth with 220-grit sandpaper and then apply scratch cover to fully conceal the repair.