Furniture Refinishing 6 - Making Repairs Furniture Refinishing 6 - Making Repairs

Margin of Error - Exact

Most Common Mistakes

1. Failing to make all necessary repairs before refinishing.

Although most of us look over our furniture carefully before beginning the stripping process to detect any repairs that may be needed, it is even more important to check again after stripping for conditions that may have been hidden under layers of old paint and varnish. Any repair that must be done on wood should be completed after stripping but before sanding and staining.


If you know that you will be working with veneer (thin, finished layers of wood), you don't want to allow the stripper to remain on the surface too long. It can seep into the cracks and lift the veneer by dissolving the adhesive.

Detect loose veneer edges by tapping your fingernail on it and listening for a change in sound. Before gluing, clean and scrape away the old glue and dirt at the contact points, being careful not to split the veneer more than it already is. Fill in the crack of the veneer with a small bit of carpenter's glue slipped in on the end of a putty knife. Or purchase an inexpensive 20-gauge needle syringe, which slides under the veneer neatly and gently to apply a small amount of glue. Press down on the repair and wipe up any excess glue that oozes out of the crack. Cover the area with waxed paper and law a weight on it so that the surfaces are firmly pressed together while the glue is setting up.

When there are bubbles, cut into the veneer with a sharp razor blade using a steel rule for guidance. Make an "X" cut - neither cut should be with the grain of the wood. Then clean, fill, and weight down the surfaces, as outlined above. Use a seam roller to press the veneer in place.

Always allow ample time for the adhesive to set and dry before continuing the refinishing process.


Here's a tip on checking the condition of wooden chairs. Kneel on the seat while holding on to the back of the chair. Then rock gently back and forth to detect any loose joints. Old and brittle glue is common with old chairs.

Dismantle any loose joints prior to stripping. Always use your hands or a rubber mallet to prevent denting and marring when dismantling furniture. After stripping, sand the joint.

Reassemble the leg and stretcher, adding carpenter's wood glue before inserting the stretcher into the hole. Clamp the legs together with a bar clamp. Place small scraps of wood between the jaws of the clamp and the legs to prevent damage to the wood. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly before the final sanding and finishing phase.

Chips, Cracks, Nicks and Screw Holes

Any undesired holes or chips in the wood should be filled in with wood dough prior to sanding and finishing. Wipe a dab of the wood dough over and into the blemished area with your finger. Look for one that dries fairly quickly, can sand easily, and absorbs stain. Wood dough is also available in various wood colors.

To disguise the wood dough after sanding, simulate the wood grain with a sharp crayon, or use a fine artist brush with the matching color.

I recommend a latex wood filler for repair of splits and dents. It accepts stain and resists shrinkage.

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