Furniture Makeover · Projects

A Stainable Fix Without Woodfill!!

Refinishing the wood on this furniture project was quite a challenge.   I am so excited to show you what we did to rectify the damaged wood!!!  After fixing it, one would have no idea that it had ever been so banged up.   As you can see there is quite a large chunk missing on the couch leg that I am re-upholstering(It’s taking time but it’s coming)!!  It is almost as if a careless someone continued to vacuum right into the leg each day whittling away at that glorious wood.

I know what you are thinking….”Isn’t it easier to wood fill and paint?”  That was definitely an option I pondered over and over, but in the end, I decided that I wanted to stain this piece.  “Stain?” YES, here is why….

1)   This furniture piece is walnut!  It’s a hard wood and the grain is tight enough that I don’t need to fill the grain.  It was made well and there is no MDF with veneer.  This is solid wood.

2)  This will be used by the entire family putting their hands on the arms of the couch.  I really don’t want to worry about any chipping because it will be getting a lot of wear.  Even with the best paint, when kids are around, forget it!!  You know what I mean….I don’t think I have to explain.;)

3)  I lOVE stain!  With all the beautiful paint trends, I don’t think stain gets enough credit.  Personally, I think it is easier to stain than paint.  It goes on beautifully, and being able to see that woodgrain pop is exciting.

“But with that big chunk missing, any wood-fill will probably not take the stain very well…..that beat up leg will still be noticeable!!  How are you going to do that?”

A Woodworking trick.  NO WOOD-FILL NEEDED but…  PRACTICE PRACTICE this first on some scrap wood.   This takes a little skill but once you get it, it is a better option than just filling the missing chunk.  This option is tougher than wood-fill….it won’t shrink or crack…’s more impact resistant.  It will take the stain the same exact way as the surrounding wood….and it adds strength back into the piece!

First I sanded everything down.  I was able sand most of those nicks out that you see in the first picture.  I started with 120 grit sandpaper and worked my way to 220.  Use a mask though when you are sanding!  I started out with one but in my excitement, different times I would go back without my mask.  I would leave my work spot all choked up.  The dust is so fine you really need one.  I used a shop vacuum with a brush nozzle to pick up the fine dust.  Then I used a tack cloth.  Now we are to the point where we just have to fix that large gouge!!!

These are the tools we used!(Yes, I called Ed in for his woodworking expertise)

TOOLS: pull saw, 1″chisel, 1.5″ chisel, wood glue, clamp, woodworking file, sandpaper, miter saw (not pictured)

Follow the pics to see what he did.  He used the pull saw for this!!

If you are worried about cutting too deep, you can always draw a pencil line for the depth of the cut so you know when to stop cutting.  That way it would be even on the same side.  Ok now, this is the cool part!  Make sure your chisels are sharp!  And please be careful!!!! Start cutting in to the wood.


ABOVE: Look at how he is holding the chisel which is important.  You may want to watch a tutorial on how to use a chisel first if you don’t know how.  They are very sharp! I don’t have any tutorial videos but it might be worth a look to be safe.  That being said, a wide 1.5 inch chisel makes it easier to cut in and create the flat bottom.  The smaller 1 inch chisel finishes it off with light skimming and shaving across the grain.   You will need to keep shaving till you can get the bottom of the section completely flat.

NEXT: Measure precisely the width of the section missing (pic 5 above).  Find a block of wood that looks like the wood that you are dealing with.  I could tell once I was sanding that the furniture piece looked like walnut.  Luckily Ed had some walnut in our basement.  Woohoo!!  Our next steps include cutting a block of walnut the same exact width as the missing section on my furniture piece.  When I say width and height I mean how it is pictured in pic 5 above.   However it has to be larger in height of the missing section…….

ABOVE:  See how the block has to be cut the same exact width as your missing section so it doesn’t fall out.  But you can see in pic 6 above that it is larger in height.  A miter saw is the best for getting it tight because it has extremely precise measurements.  Once you have your cut block check that it fits the open space.  Make sure before you glue anything in, the block is completely flat with a snug fit.  If it rocks at all that may mean there is still a high point in the gap and although it may look completely flat in that section, there may be a slight bit of shaving that still needs to be done.  Only glue down the block when you feel that it is totally flat.  He smeared the glue on both the flat section and the block.  Once he glued it down into place and set the clamp, we cleaned the glue that started seeping out very quickly with a damp rag and into the crevices.  If that is not cleaned well, the stain may have trouble taking well to that area.  We left this to glue over night.  When we took off the clamp, you can see in picture 6 above…the block is ready!!!!  Here we go- Get out the PULL SAW!!!!!

ABOVE:  Even though there are a lot of steps to get to this point, I would have to say it really didn’t take that long at all.  I was so surprised actually.  If you have some woodworking experience it took about 45 minutes to 1 hour  to cut the section, chisel, cut a block, glue in and clamp.  It sat overnight and then only about 15-20 minutes the next day to trim the block down.

NEXT: The staining process….

ABOVE:  This is really the exciting part when you see all your hard work pay off.  Remember, the prep is always the key for any good finish!!!!  Prepping is where your time is spent and it will show.   Make sure you clean everything with vacuum brush and tack cloth.  A wood conditioner is really a key to having a good stain.  It opens the grain of the wood and allows a more even coat of stain to seep in.  When you skip this step, stain can come out blotchy and not take in all areas of the wood.  I started staining within 2 hours after applying the conditioner!! ahh…  The color KONA is gorgeous!!  My pics really don’t do it justice.  My 5 year old asked if we could stain everything in the house that color. hehe.  Always apply and wipe off.  That is where you will see the woodgrain come through.  We let it sit overnight.  The next morning, I used Ed’s favorite- waterlox to seal it!!  Waterlox is rubbed on using a rag.  It is not thick and will need a few coats to get that nice finish that you want.  In between coats I used furniture grade steel wool.  You don’t want a coarse steel wool because it will scratch the surface.  I did not rub I only put a slight touch to the surface just to get it very smooth.  After the last coat of waterlox I did not use steel wool.

NEXT:  The leg is fixed and ready to be revealed!  I am so excited to show you how amazing this turned out.  I am not a photographer so don’t judge the pics… I did the best I could!!  I didn’t want to touch anything up (nostalgic soft mood lighting (haha)) so you could see exactly the untouched close-ups!!

refinishing tricks to repair chunk missing. Stainable without woodfill


16 thoughts on “A Stainable Fix Without Woodfill!!

  1. Oh, wow it looks great! It doesn’t seem that hard once I read through it a few times. And I didn’t know about wood conditioners–so thanks for sharing that too! I can’t wait to see the finished couch in its entirety!


  2. This is terrific! I have a couple of projects that were just waiting for this kind of solution! The pictures are clear and demonstrate the process perfectly!


  3. Have you ever refinished Teak Wood before? I have tried following directions online, and unfortunately I really am looking for just a simple fix! Is that possible?


  4. Thanks so much Vickie! It is amazing what one can do with some of the tools that are out there. Feel free to pin any of the projects to pinterest should you want to save it and reference it another time. The welding project has been done already and is on our website. Check out our home-page since it is our last project that was done:) Come back anytime… I will be adding more furniture makeovers and artwork soon.


  5. This is a fantastic tutorial. Some pieces of furniture don’t suit painting and its nice to know of a method to restore them. I have never seen this done. Pinning and thanks for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

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