Filling nail holes for new nail

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Hello all - first time posting and very amateur wood-enthusiast, please forgive my ignorance. 

I have a 60+ yr old camel saddle stool that needs repair. The long brad nails holding the legs to the frame are bent from years of use and I've had to repeatedly knock them back in. Now it seems the holes are too big to hold the nails at all - I guess it's abuse as a foot stool has wiggled the legs so much, the nails have hollowed out a larger hole. They’re also bent into the hole - as if they’ve held a lot of weight for years. Maybe it really was used as a camel saddle at some point - I know my legs aren’t putting enough weight on them to bend them that much!

I'm thinking that simple wood glue is too weak to hold a new nail long term? I know of the dowel rod or toothpicks trick in a screw hole, but will it work for a nail hole? I hesitate to replace the nails with bigger ones - the wood they go into is a small round piece that would probably split.

I’m looking for any suggestions on how to repair it. If the consensus is that it’s not repairable by a greenhorn, is it a job for any woodworking pro? Or should I look for someone who specializes in these kinds of things?








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The problem is that nails alone are not a terribly strong joint for the firce that piece endures. However, you should be able to restore it to its former condition. Carefully work the nails out and stratighten them. Use a dab of wood glue and toothpick or bamboo skewers to fill the holes (only in the frame, not the cross bars). After the glue has set, clamp the cross bars into position and drive the nails back in.

I would leave one hole at each end only half filled, so the nail can be pushed in to help align the others. That, and binding the bars together with twine should hold the in place firmly enogh to drive the remaining nails without displacing the parts. If you have means to clamp the frame to a workbench or other solid structure, so much the better.

If you want to pursue a more structurally sound solution, there are options, but they require more skill than driving a nail.

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My suggestion is to fill the nail holes with slow set (1 hour) epoxy appropriate for wood and metal.  Then reassemble with the nails before the adhesive sets up.  You'll need to figure out a method to hold everything together while it cures.  You'll also need to deal with the excess epoxy that may squeeze out.

Some epoxy between the bars and base might enhance the hold, but @wtnhighlander's idea of twine or leather lashing is a very good idea and would be appropriate for the piece.

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