Repairing Damage on Wood Furniture

Wood furniture quickly appears to age with the regular wear and tear of everyday living. Scratches, dings, stains, and discoloration seem to appear magically no matter how careful you are. With a little tender loving care, it is possible to make the damage magically disappear.


Light surface scratches can often be removed during the regular maintenance of your furniture. A piece of wax paper or a soft cloth moistened with furniture polish can be used to gently buff out the marks. An area that has been scuffed, or that has suffered a series of light scratches, will need to be lightly sanded in the direction of the grain with a 320 grit sanding sponge before buffing.

Deeper scratches that do not go all the way through the clear coat can be repaired with a clear wax stick. Rub the wax stick in the opposite direction of the scratch and then rub off the excess with a soft rag. If you find a scratch that goes into the stain, you will need to find a matching stain pen to recolor the wood before coating it with oil or lacquer. Colored wax will also work, but keep in mind that it will stand out slightly because of the different texture.


If something has been dropped on a wood surface, the wood grains compress and create a dip in the surface. To fix this, cover the dent with a paper towel that is soaked with clear water. Then, press onto the dent with an iron that has been heated to the highest setting. The steam will cause the wood grains to heave and the dent to disappear. The rough grains can then be scuffed off with a 320 grit sanding sponge and wiped clean. Afterwards, the area can be given a light coat of lemon oil or lacquer.

Dents that do not lift with the iron will need to be pulled out. A fine drill bit using a wrench or finish nail part way into the dent and pull on it with a pair of pliers. If you find that this still does not work, poke a series of small holes a quarter of an inch deep into the dent and iron or soak it with a commercial wood-swelling liquid. Finally, the area can be rubbed with a piece of extremely fine steel wool and finished.


Sometimes an item dropped onto wood will rip or chip pieces out of your furniture. If you still have the broken section of wood, you can coat both sides with a light coating of wood glue. You would then line it back up and clamp it or weight it down until the glue cures. Once the glue is dry and the clamp removed, excess glue can be rubbed off the finished surface with a dry cloth. If you are working on raw wood, glue should be wiped off before it is dry and sanded well before applying a finish.

If you no longer have the section that was broke out, you will have to fill it. Find a wood putty that matches the item you need to fill or tint one that is close with water based stain. Remeber that putty always dries darker and so it may be a good idea to test the color before using it. The putty can then be pressed into the hole using a putty knife and allowed to cure overnight. For chips on the edge of a project, wood glue can be mixed with the putty to make it adhere better and dry with more durability. Once the putty has cured, use a 320 grit sanding sponge or extra fine steel wool to sand off the excess putty and bevel the edges of the lacquer. (Wood items that have extremely thick lacquer may have to be bevel up to a half inch away from the repair with a utility or craft knife.) The area can then be coated with lacquer to hide the repair.


You can repair cracks in much the same way as gouges, unless they are extremely large or they weaken the wood. Cracks that are exceptionally wide can filled with glue and either putty or a section of wood cut to fit in the hole. The wood plug needs to be clamped down tightly and left to dry. If the crack moves when you apply pressure to both sides, the break will need to be packed with glue and clamped the opposite way until the glue bubbles back out. For both of these repairs, the dry glue can be removed with a dry rag and sanded with a 320 sanding sponge before coating it with lacquer or a clear wax stick.

Lifting Veneer and Hiding Marks and Stains

Veneer lifts or bubbles when it swells or when the glue underneath simply lets go. Lay a wet cloth down overtop of the damaged area and press down firmly with a hot iron. If you find that the veneer still does not seal down, slice along the grain with a craft knife and put wood glue underneath before weighing it down.

Stains and light burns can often be removed by rubbing it with an extra fine piece of steel wool dipped in mineral spirits. If this fails to remove the burn or stain, scrape over the mark with a sharp chisel or knife until the mark disappears and coat the area with lacquer.

Everyday life eventually takes its toll on wood furniture and trim in your home. To keep it looking like brand new, time needs to be spent maintaining and repairing your wood items. With a little bit of hard work and a few tricks up your sleeve, almost anything can be repaired or hidden.