Tips for Repairing your Damaged Wood Furniture

Included in this article:

Deny dents with steam
Step on cracks with a stick
Match background color, not grain

It’s bound to happen – a huge dent in the wood of Aunt Zuzu’s antique coffee table. Or a large, unsightly gouge on one of the matched set of wooden kitchen chairs. Maybe the arm of your favorite rocker is also showing cracks of age. Well, no need to banish your favorite furniture pieces to the basement. But you can banish the dings, gouges and cracks. With a little work, your damaged piece can look new again. For some tips for repairing wood furniture….

Get Steamed
It’s all too easy to dent soft wood furniture, but it’s just as simple to fix a dent with steam. Yes, steam. Most of the time we try to keep water away from wood, but this is one time when it’s okay to mix them. The only hard thing about this method is that it can only be done on bare wood, so you’ll have strip the finish off of Aunt Zuzu’s antique coffee table with stripper and sandpaper.

Place a damp cloth over the dent and press with the tip of a hot iron. The steam created causes the wood fibers to swell. Rewet the cloth and continue to steam until the dent is level with the rest of the surface.
TIP: The wood can scorch, so don’t leave the iron in one place for a long; check under the cloth often. Also, the steam can melt the glue under veneer and lift it off so beware of that. Let the piece dry, then, sand and apply a coat of stain and the finish of your choice.

Fill in the Cracks
Wood furniture can dry out and start to crack, especially in dry climates. If you catch and patch those cracks early, you’ll save yourself a complete refinishing job. The simplest method is to use a putty stick matched to the existing finish on the piece – match to the background color, not the grain. Click Here to look at an online resource showing the variety of available colors for putty sticks. Rub the stick over the crack until its filled; wipe of the excess with a clean cloth. It couldn’t be easier.

This technique works well on surface cracks, but shouldn’t be used on joints (it just dries and falls out) or severe cracks that affect the integrity of the piece. (Sorry, for those problems a complete refinishing with re-gluing is the only answer).

Stick It To the Holes
Lacquer sticks, also known as burn-in sticks, are an old woodworker’s trick, but any DIYer can learn to use them. They work great on deeper dents and holes. Match the Lacquer stick color to an existing finish, just like with a putty stick. Clean and sand the dent, but try not to damage the surrounding wood or you’ll be refinishing more than a dent.
Use a burn-in knife or a soldering iron to melt the tip of the lacquer stick, allowing the waxy material to drip into the hole until it’s level with the surrounding area. Press the melted lacquer into the wood and level with the burn-in knife or putty knife. Sand the now filled in dent lightly with a fine-grade sanding paper. To replicate the grain pattern, paint with a fine paint brush or use a graining pen.