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How to Repair Cracks in Wooden Furniture

How to Repair Cracks in Wooden Furniture

How to repair cracks in furniture?

Depending on if you have kids or pets, even just time can take its toll on furniture, and you may discover cracks or gouges in your beautiful hardwood. What can you do to fix this? Can you repair it yourself? You can! There are many options available to do-it-yourself. Here are some ways to fix that damage and make your furniture look whole once more.

Supplies Needed

  1. Wood tone putty sticks or Shellac sticks.
  2. Wood filler or Wood plastic for deep gouges.
  3. Epoxy. If using epoxy, painters’ tape, a sander, plastic cup, a respirator mask and spoon for mixing is needed.
  4. Water putty.
  5. Oil or stain matching damaged furniture.
  6. Craft knife and or plastic applicator.
  7. 100 grit, 150 and 320 grit sandpaper.
  8. No. 0000 steel wool
  9. Artists’ brush
  10. Metal palette knives in various sizes
  11. Carpenter’s glue
  12. Wood shavings, pieces or sawdust. (For very large cracks.)

Step One: Gather Supplies

Before you begin repairing the damage, you will want to make sure you have the right supplies to fix it.

Matching: you will want to match your repair supplies such as putty sticks, shellac sticks, oil or stain to the same color as the furniture you are repairing. Otherwise, the repair may end up being too dark or too light and end up being almost or more noticeable than the damage.

Matching tips:

  • Purchase a Finisher’s color wheel from your local hardware store or online. This is a handy tool that can help you identify common pigments by lining the wheel up and comparing the colors to your damaged furniture. Some pigments are mixed. On a Finisher’s color wheel, the inner wheel can be lined up with the outer to show you what colors were mixed to create a certain shade of pigment. If a color looks too light and the other too dark, err on choosing the lighter one. Stain can easily be darkened to match but is much more difficult to lighten. Visit your local hardware to pick up stain samples and compare that with your Finisher’s Wheel color.
  • For consistency, test on a scrap of the same color and type of wood first that has been sanded to the about the same grit.
  • Always stir stain well to get the pigment into suspension.
  • Always compare your test stain to your damaged furniture’s stain in the same light. Different lighting can change how stain colors look.
  • Always let your test samples fully dry. What looks good on first application may appear a different color after it has dried.
  • Apply a top coat (if you will be using one) to your test sample to see how it affects the color. Shellac, for example, can stain wood amber. Any top coat can alter your stain’s final color.
  • When coloring wood filler your best option is to color the filler before using it. If the filler is water-based, using acrylic art paint from a supply store can help you match.
  • When using a wood plug or wood sawdust mixed with wood glue, make sure the plug or sawdust matches the wood you are repairing.

Small cracks: Wood tone putty sticks or Shellac sticks, wood filler or wood plastic, craft knife or plastic applicator, fine-grit sandpaper, and No. 0000 steel wool should be the basics of what you need.

Large cracks: Wood filler or wood plastic, oil or stain to match, craft knife or plastic applicator, fine-grit sandpaper, wood shavings or sawdust, artist’s brush, carpenters glue, No. 0000 steel wool.

Step Two: Prepare the Damaged Area

With the tip of a craft knife, gently clean the crack or gouge of any loose, jagged wood. Depending on how you wish to repair the damage, save any wood shavings or sawdust for later. Should the gouge or crack be very small, you may be able to skip this step entirely.

Step Three: Wood Filler Before Sanding

Small Cracks: Apply your choice of wood filler before attempting to sand. Small holes from staples or nails, a matching wood-tone putty stick should be fine to use. Putty sticks can also be mixed together to help further match the surrounding wood. To use a putty stick, simply wipe it across the hole and smooth the surface with your finger. If you plan to touch this up with finish or will refinish the furniture, let the putty dry completely for at least one week.

Shavings and Glue: When deciding to fill in a crack with a mixture of sawdust and wood glue, double-check the sawdust matches the piece of furniture you are trying to fix. Squeeze wood glue into the crack first filling the entire space. For very small cracks, a syringe may be more useful than the tip of the wood glue bottle. Let dry overnight or according to your wood glue’s instruction. If the glue has sunk or if the crack is still visible, feel free to repeat this step.

Once completely satisfied with this method, go ahead and sand the filled damage with fine-grit sandpaper until flat and blended. Finish to match if you so desire.

Medium-sized or wanting a more professional looking patch: Shellac sticks are recommended for medium-sized damage or for a more natural-looking repair.

Large Cracks: For larger cracks, wood filler and water putty are the easier fillers. They can be used on unfinished or finished wood. Wood filler can be found in many colors, water putty can be tinted with oil or water stains. For best results before using wood filler and water putty, mix and test on the surface of the damaged wood in a very small place that will not be seen, or use a test piece of scrap that matches the wood, grain, and color of the furniture you are preparing. This ensures that the patch doesn’t look darker than the repaired wood, thus, more noticeable than the damage. How to Use Wood Filler

Make sure you’ve followed step one in carefully cleaning the crack in the wood. Using the tip of a craft knife, or plastic applicator, firmly press the plastic in. You’ll want to use a little more than you think you should because wood filler shrinks as it dries. Press firm and tightly, leaving it slightly mounded above the surface.

Let the filler dry for roughly two days. You should be ready to use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the filler, then go over it gently with your No. 0000 steel wool to buff it. To match the edges of the damage to the surrounding finish, feather the edges so the new patch blends into the old surface. If needed, you can then stain the patch, buff it again with your No. 0000 steel wool, then apply a finish that matches the surface of your furniture’s finish using an artists’ brush.

Let the finish dry completely, buff it with your steel wool once more, and wax or polish as normal.

How to Use Water Putty

Water putty dries differently than wood filler. It will dry extremely hard, usually harder than the wood you are trying to patch. It is always best to use water putty on bare wood. You can color match the water putty using either oil stain or water stain, but you should always test it on a scrap piece first to make sure it matches.

Water putty can be created by mixing the powder with water to the consistency of putty.

You can place the putty into the break with a putty knife and leave the patch slightly higher than the surface of the furniture. Let it dry completely as per instructions, then sand as well as steel wool your repair spot until it is smooth and even. You can follow the same steps above to stain or finish the wood.

Shellac sticks. Possibly the best choice.

One of the best ways to make your repair look the most professional is by using Shellac sticks. They leave the least noticeable patch behind and are extremely effective on good condition, finished wood. Choose a stick that matches your piece of furniture and practice on a scrap piece of wood before attempting to fix your cracked furniture.

As mentioned in step one, clean the crack in your furniture first.

To use your Shellac stick, it must be heated up beforehand in order to fill the damage.

  • Best means to melt the Shellac stick is an alcohol lamp.
  • You can also use a propane torch set to the lowest possible setting.
  • Do not use a match. The smoke from a match can discolor the stick.
  • Do not use a range burner or stove top. Liquid Shellac can damage both electric and propane ranges.
  • Hold a palette knife under the shellac stick. This prevents drips.
  • Heat until it has softened to the consistency of glaze or putty.
  • Immediately press the softened shellac into the crack and smooth it with the same knife you used to collect drips.

Melting Shellac sticks properly.

  • Best means to melt the Shellac stick is an alcohol lamp.
  • You can also use a propane torch set to the lowest possible setting.
  • Do not use a match. The smoke from a match can discolor the stick.
  • Do not use a range burner or stove top. Liquid Shellac can damage both electric and propane ranges.
  • Hold a palette knife under the shellac stick. This prevents drips.
  • Heat until it has softened to the consistency of glaze or putty.
  • Immediately press the softened shellac into the crack and smooth it with the same knife you used to collect drips.

When filling the crack with melted shellac sticks, make double sure the shellac fills the split completely. Shellac hardens and cools very quickly so you will have a short window to work with. As with the other materials for patch work, leave it slightly rounded about the surface. You can smooth it with the still-hot palette knife.

Once complete leave the patch to sit for at least 1 or 2 hours. After, plane or sand the surface so that it is flush with the surface of your furniture. The great thing about Shellac sticks to patch is that they usually do not need to be finished or retouched. But if you wish, you can apply a shellac finish to the now repaired crack.

Using Epoxy

Clean the crack first with your craft knife, removing any debris. Epoxy is best with very large cracks. If the crack goes entirely through your piece of furniture, you will want to tape the underside of that crack so the epoxy does not leak and drip through. Wood, plastic, or frog tape is the better choice for taping.

Put on your respirator mask and work in a very well-ventilated area. Epoxy fumes are not safe to inhale so use caution. Working outdoors with epoxy is highly recommended.

In a plastic cup, follow the Epoxy’s directions exactly for mixing the components. Epoxy has two parts to mix: resin and hardener. Add the hardener and resin to the bowl while estimating how much you will need but do not mix, because if you start mixing before ready, epoxy will begin to immediately harden.

While the components remain unmixed, you may add powdered pigment or dyes that match the damaged piece you are fixing. Use a dropper or sprinkle of powder.

As soon as the dye or pigment powder has been added begin to stir and stir quickly. After a few seconds, your epoxy should thicken to the consistency of paint and it will be ready to apply to the crack.

Spoon or spread the mixture so that it fills the crack entirely. Push it firmly into the split. Any bubbles that form can be popped with a needle. Try and make a very small round a little higher than the surface of your original furniture and now let dry.

Drying times will be different according to the type and brand of the epoxy, so be sure to follow them exactly. If you are unsure, very gently press a fingernail into the epoxy. If it leaves any mark, it is not dry. Let dry further.

When it is finally completely dry, you should be able to level your epoxy with fine-grit sandpaper. If there is too much epoxy, gingerly cut away the excess with a putty knife. Once level with the wood, you can color in any speckles with a felt-tipped marker in the same color of the wood.

Note: some epoxy may not work with oil wood stains or certain finishes. Make sure to read epoxy instructions carefully before using either.

Large or very large cracks

For extreme cracks or splits, pieces of wood or wood shavings may be needed to fill the crack completely. If you can take a piece of wood from the original furniture in a place that will not show, that is your best bet for perfectly matching. However, if you do not wish to damage the piece further, there are other steps you can take.

Fit the piece of wood or shavings as much as possible to the size and shape of the crack. Using carpenter’s glue, begin bonding the new piece of wood to the surrounding wood in your damaged furniture. Make sure to leave this wood piece slightly higher, or taller, than the surface of your damaged wood. Let the glue completely dry according to its instructions and then you may sand the wood plug to be level as well as smooth to the original. You may refinish if you so desire after.

Whether it’s a small crack, a tiny split, or an all the way through crack, there is always a solution! We hope the result will be a beautifully repaired piece of furniture that will hold up over time.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your fine Laurel Crown furniture, please call or email us for any assistance you need.

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