It’s inevitable that old wood furniture gets damaged over time. A lot of them have a thin layer of pretty wood (called veneer) that gets caught on something and chips off. Don’t sweat it though! Here’s how to repair chipped veneer furniture, and, as a BONUS, how to stain the repair (instead of painting it!)
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We snatched this pretty old desk off of Facebook Marketplace for $50! What a score!
But it came with a tiny bit of damage in the form of chipped veneer on the top and damage where the chair scoots in.
I didn’t mind the small damage because honestly, I planned to take it apart and make nightstands. Have you seen those makeovers? This makeover on how to repurpose a desk into tall skinny nightstands is my favorite one I’ve done!
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But after I got it home I decided that I wanted to keep it for myself in its original desk form, AND I wanted it stained to complement the wood tones on my recent chippy blue painted hutch that is going in the same room.
I think it turned out pretty darn good! I’ve been using the desk now for a couple of weeks and I honestly forget that there used to be a chip in the veneer!
Here’s how I did it!
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How to Repair Chipped Veneer Furniture (and then stain it!)
- Scuff sand the damaged wood and right around the damaged area for the best results.
- Mix up a small batch of Bondo Wood Filler and spread it over the chipped veneer.
- Let the Bondo Wood Filler dry and then sand it down.
- If the veneer has a lot of wood grain in it, add some wood grain lines to your Bondo.
- Use gel stain to stain the Bondo Wood Filler.
- Seal the gel stain for maximum durability.
(Read on to learn more about each step of the process and get links to all of the products you need!)
Step 1: Prep the Damaged Area by Scuff Sanding
For the best results, scuff sand the damaged area with 220 grit sandpaper. This will just make it so the Bondo will stick really well.
Optional – Remove the Veneer
If your veneer is loose or pretty damaged, you might want to remove all of it instead of filling in the modding veneer. Here is our video and tutorial on the insanely easy way to remove veneer.
Step 2: Mix up the Bondo Wood Filler and Spread it Over the Damage
Bondo Wood Filler is a two-part wood filler that dries very hard very quickly. So it’s perfect for large repairs and also chipped veneer repairs.
If you’re painting the damaged area, you can use the regular Automotive Bondo, All-Purpose Bondo, or the Bondo Wood Filler.
But when you need to stain the damaged area, it’s best to use the Bondo Wood Filler because it dries a natural wood color.
You’ll need to work quickly because it dries so fast. You have about 5 minutes to work with it once you start mixing. After about 5 minutes it will start to harden and it will be hard to work with.
After about 30 minutes it will be dry and then you can sand it down.
I like to mix my Bondo on a piece of cardboard or a piece of scrap wood.
How to Mix Bondo Wood Filler
Simply get a blob of Bondo base out of the container and put it on the cardboard. Then squeeze a little bit of hardener (from the tube) onto the Bondo. (Read the back of the can for more detailed instructions on how much of each to use).
Then mix the two parts together until it’s one even color.
Use a flat edged tool like the Bondo spreader or a plastic putty knife to spread the Bondo all over the damaged area. (I like to fill the damage with more than needed so I can sand it down completely smooth and flat)
Step 3: Let the Bondo Wood Filler Dry – Then Sand Down Smooth
Once the Bondo is dry (about 30 minutes later) you can sand it down smooth with the rest of the wood veneer.
This 3M Pro Grade Advanced Sandpaper is the best brand / type of sandpaper. It’s a bit more expensive than the cheapest sandpaper out there, but it holds up and lasts longer. And it doesn’t clog as fast either!
If you’re working with a large area and a flat surface, you can use a power sander instead of sanding by hand.
**Note: I sanded the entire top of this desk down to bare wood because of the scratches dings and nail polish on it. You don’t have to remove the finish surrounding the damaged area though! But if I didn’t sand the entire top of the desk, I would have applied at least one coat of Java Gel stain on the entire top to give it all one even coat.
Step 4: (Optional) Add Wood Grain Marks with Utility Knife
If your wood veneer has a lot of wood grain in it (like oak wood) then you can recreate the wood grain with a utility knife.
Simply put little and long random marks all over in the veneer with a utility knife.
Be sure to sand it down a little bit with 220 grit sandpaper to make it nice and smooth again.
Step 5: Stain the Bondo Wood Filler with Gel Stain
Now it’s time to bust out the gel stain.
The Best Way to Stain Wood Filler – Gel Stain!
It’s super important to use Gel stain instead of regular wood stain!
Gel stain is thicker and formulated to sit on top of existing surfaces.
Wood Stain is made to soak into the wood.
The Bondo Wood Filler can’t accept wood stain the same way that wood can (plus all types of wood will take the same color of wood stain a little differently too!)
So, for best results when staining Bondo Wood Filler, use a gel stain.
I used Java Gel Stain by General Finishes for this repair.
(Actually, I decided to stain the whole entire desk in Java Gel Stain ((you don’t have to strip the old finish all the way off to use gel stain!!) for a really quick updated look)
How to use Gel Stain over Wood Filler
- Use a stir stick to mix the gel stain really well.
- Put on your latex or vinyl gloves or else your fingers will get stained!
- Dip a lint-free rag into the gel stain.
- Wipe the gel stain onto the wood filler and the surrounding areas
- Let the gel stain sit for about 30 seconds to start drying and then wipe the excess away with a clean lint free rag.
- Let dry for 24 hours and then apply a second coat.
Tips and Best Practices for Using Gel Stain
- You can brush it on or wipe it on. I like to apply thin coats with a lint free rag to prevent streaks or brush marks.
- If you apply more gel stain before the gel stain completely dries, the new coat of gel stain will lighten the (still wet) first coat. So make sure the gel stain is completely dry before you put a second coat of gel stain over it!
- Dispose of your rags properly! Do not throw wet stained rags into the trash, as they could combust. I personally like to hang mine up outside on the clothesline to dry completely before disposing of them.
Step 6: Seal with Polyurethane
Even though the back of the gel stain can says that you don’t need to seal it, ignore it and seal the gel stain.
The very first time I used gel stain over a stained dresser, I didn’t seal it with poly. A few months later I ended up with a nice big scratch in the gel stain, on the top of the dresser.
The polyurethane will protect your stained surface from getting easily scratched!
I personally like to use this Minwax oil based poly in the spray can. It sprays beautifully and is really easy to use!
**In a pinch, I tried the Varathane brand of oil-based poly in the spray can and it spit and sputtered all over. (I tried two separate spray cans and both spit large drops of poly all over). Despite shaking them very well before spraying and shaking the can a lot while I was spraying.
So I switched back to the Minwax brand and I was reminded by how well the Minwax Oil Based poly sprays from the spray can!
If you don’t want to spray, this Minwax Wipe on Poly is my next favorite way to seal Gel Stain. I wipe it on with a lint free rag, laying it on thick and only wiping it on (and not touching it anymore than when I wipe it on).
Step 7: Enjoy!
Let your poly dry for at least 24 hours before setting anything on it. Then make sure to be very careful with your fresh new stained finish for about a month. It takes about a month for the products to cure (dry into the most durable surface).
Enjoy your masterpiece!
Click here to see what this gel stained desk looks like now!
- 220 Grit Sandpaper (this is the best and my favorite sandpaper)
- Bondo Wood Filler and Bondo Spreader
- Old piece of cardboard or scrap piece of wood (to mix Bondo on)
- Utility Knife (if you want to make wood grain marks in your Bondo)
- Gel Stain (this Java Gel Stain by General Finishes is my favorite and what I used)
- Lint free rag or cut up t-shirt
- Latex Gloves
- Polyurethane (This is my favorite spray version! The spray is the best I’ve found! I don’t recommend Varathane oil-based in the spray can. With two different cans, it kept spitting large drops of polyurethane all over. It was a disaster. )
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