Using wood filler to repair furniture that’s damaged is easy and effective. It’s also something that should be done prior to ever painting a piece of wood furniture. Today I’d like to show you how to use wood filler to repair furniture and make it like new again.
Repairing Furniture With Wood Filler
Carpenter’s Wood Filler
Painting older pieces of furniture is much more than a can of paint and a paint brush. Many often require some repair work.
When I first began painting furniture, I would experiment on just about any piece. This often meant working on pieces that had dents, broken legs, or damaged moldings. It’s understandable that over time wood gets banged, dented, and even dropped, creating divots in the wood and sometimes resulting in entire corners being damaged.
While now I’m much more picky about the furniture I refinish, it’s still great to know that if a piece of furniture does require repair, I know exactly how to do it.
That’s where wood filler comes into play.
Wood filler is a soft, putty-like material that’s used to fill areas where the wood is damaged. Once exposed to air, the putty dries to a solid form that can be sanded smooth to blend in with the wood surface and then painted.
Elmer’s Wood Filler happens to be the brand I choose to repair furniture. It has always performed well and held up over time, meaning that the wood filler resists shrinking and cracking.
Elmer’s Wood Filler comes in a plastic tub. Once the tub is opened, unfortunately it does not seal air-tight and will harden. To extend the the life of an opened tub of the soft putty, store it in a plastic ziplock bag and then place that sealed bag in a sealed plastic container.
This wood filler is strictly for painting and priming. It will not accept stain well enough to blend in with the real wood. Although I haven’t tried the one myself, if you need to stain, try THIS Elmer’s Carpenter’s Color Change wood filler.
Repair Broken or Missing Veneer
Wood filler can be used for many different types of wood repair. The first type is broken or missing veneer.
First, remove any veneer that’s already peeling away. Apply carpenter’s wood glue under the edges of the veneer and let dry overnight to prevent any additional veneer from peeling away.
Then using a flat putty knife, spread the soft Elmers Wood Filler putty over the damaged area. Don’t worry about making the putty flush with the surface at this point. You actually want to apply a little more than what’s actually needed because the putty will settle.
Let the putty dry overnight and then sand the surface smooth with sand paper. Apply a second coat of the soft putty, if needed, let dry overnight and sand again. Prime and paint the furniture as usual.
[P.S. – My apology for the less than stellar photos here. Like I said, these were pieces that I worked on when I first started out and my photography skills were minimal. But you’ll get the idea.]
As you can see, if the wood filler is sanded to a smooth finish, once the paint is applied, you cannot even tell where the wood was patched.
Fill Large Gaps in Wood
The second use for wood filler is to fill large gaps or holes in the wood.
This pedestal table used to be be an extendable table. The insert leafs were missing so I decided to permanently secure the base to the tabletop. Once the screws were in place and the table could no longer extend, there was no point in leaving the large crack that ran down the center. Two applications of wood filler later and the unsightly crack disappeared.
Fill Small Divots After Priming
The third use for wood filler is to fill small divots in the wood. I recommend this step be done after the first coat of primer is applied because once the first coat of primer is painted on a piece of wood furniture, you will see small dents and dings in the wood that weren’t as visible prior. I always inspect a piece after it’s primed and fill these small divots.
Repair Broken Moding & Trim
Finally, one of my favorite uses for wood filler… repairing broken moldings and trim.
By no means am I a carpenter, so re-creating an old molding without the proper equipment and bits would be nearly impossible.
There’s always the option of removing the molding entirely, but in the instance of this six-foot long dresser replacing the molding could get costly. The molding went across the front and wrapped around the two sides. In addition, I’ve learned that ripping wood or veneer off of a piece of furniture can cause even more damage.
The easier solution is to re-build the damaged molding with wood filler.
This is where you need to channel your inner clay molding skills. Apply the wood filler and very gently shape it. Allow to dry overnight, sand, and then apply a second coat if needed. Once painted, you’ll barely be able to tell there was ever such extensive damage.
On the dresser pictured below, there were entire sections missing on the decorative scroll that runs along the bottom of this cedar chest. Using wood filler, I re-built the missing sections of decorative trim.
Using wood filler to repair furniture can save a beautful piece of furniture.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products I use myself.