Removing nails in chair legs

slazinFebruary 12, 2009


I have 8 wonderful old alder chairs, Windsor style, that I'm refinishing. Someone used the nail-in plastic chair glides, now broken off, leaving nails embedded in the legs. They've worn down to flush with the legs, so I can't grab them with pliers. I want to remove them to put in better glides, as we have a tile floor. Before I start mangling them to try to dig them out, does anyone have a clever approach to this?

Also, several of the seats have separated in the middle (where the wood is edge-laminated). As well as gluing them, is it useful to use a metal strip plate screwed in underneath as support? Or other ideas?

Thanks so much!


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I use a tool sometimes called a painter's tool. It has a sharp edge that is useful for prying.

As far as what to put in now, I recommend Safe-Glides.

When you put on metal "mending plates," you are constraining normal wood movement. In the end, the wood wins; you cannot control it, only allow for it. When the wood expands or contracts seasonally, it will either create a new crack at the point of greatest weakness, or blow out the screws. A good glue joint (by cleaning the existing glue out first) is all you should need.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 10:07PM
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Can you simply drill a new hole next to it and use that for the new glides? It's going to be impossible to grip the flush pin without removing some wood to the sides to get a grip. They sell some kind of miniature holesaw for jobs like this, but then you will have a new task; filling that hole. Which you could do with a dowel of the right size and some glue. A second hole adjacent is a relatively easier fix.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 1:59PM
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If you must remove the nails a broken wood screw cutter will cut a small diameter hole around the nail so it can be removed.

Since it is on the bottom of the foot, a plain piece of wood dowel and some hide glue will make a good repair.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 3:29PM
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If you are putting on new glides, can you just leave the nails in place? If not, what you will need to remove the nails is a small (1/4") chisel and a needle-nosed Visegrip. Very carefully shave down the wood that surrounds the nailhead on all sides so that you have a small crater surrounding the nailhead and you have the top 1/16" or so of the head exposed. Then use the Vise grip set as tight as you can get it to lock on to the nailhead. Once it is firmly clamped on, just rotate the tool down against the wood to apply leverage to the nailhead. If you do it just right, it will pull up the head a little bit. Then reset the Visegrip lower on the exposed head and repeat the process. After a couple times of doing this, the naill should be out.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 2:57AM
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