Plagued by cracks in a piece of old furniture? Unless it's a museum piece, this simple repair might fill the bill.

Plagued by cracks in a piece of old furniture? Unless it's a museum piece, this simple repair might fill the bill.

Quite often, cracks in old furniture arise from failed glue joints. Repairing these becomes a matter of cleaning out loose fibers and old glue, fitting the parts, and gluing them back together. In many instances, a crack that doesn't occur at a joint can be repaired readily by cleaning, gluing, and clamping, too.

But the two cracks in the edge of the small table shown above defied gluing and clamping because the tabletop was veneered both top and bottom. Pulling the cracks' edges together would require removing the veneer.

Because the table isn't a valuable antique, the repair could lean more toward the serviceable and less toward a museum-quality restoration. So, we decided to simply fill the cracks.

Build a base of shavings

Generally, it's better to apply filler materials in thin layers. Wood movement and other factors can crack filler that's been applied too heavily.

To minimize the amount of filler in the crack, we glued some wood into the split first, and then smoothed a thin coat of filler over the repaired surface. Plane shavings proved a workable choice for wood packing, as shown in the photo below. After block-planing some fairly thick curls from a piece of walnut chosen to match the table's dark finish, we moistened a few and stretched them out flat to dry under weights on the workbench.

Glue plan shavings into the crack to provide a base for the filler. A knife helps push the thin pieces into place. The crack to the left of the knife has been trimmed and sanded already.

The curls didn't press completely flat, but came out straight enough that we could coat some with liquid hide glue and slide them into the crack. We alternated layers of glue-coated and uncoated shavings, then dribbled glue along the top of the wood-packed crack, letting it ooze down through the gaps.

After the glue dried, we trimmed the shavings flush with the table edge, using a small chisel. We sanded the repair and the surrounding area with 100-grit sandpaper.

Top  it off with wood filler

The repaired area showed numerous surface irregularities after sanding. To level and smooth the surface, we applied wood filler, as shown in the photo below.

Smooth wood filler onto the repaired area after trimming the glued-in plane shavings flush with the surface. Make sure to use a filler that will take stain. We chose a two-part epoxy product.

For filler, we mixed epoxy wood rebuilder, following the manufacturer's instructions. (We bought the two-part putty at a home center.) Other types of wood filler would work, too.

Then, using a flexible plastic applicator, we spread a layer of filler over the repair and surrounding area. An old kitchen spatula or expired credit card will work fine for a spreader. If nothing suitable is at hand, buy plastic spreaders for auto-body filler at an auto-supply store.

After the filler cured, we sanded it smooth with 100-grit sandpaper, feathering it into the adjacent wood. Finally, we block-sanded with grits from 150 to 320, which left the surface suitable for staining and finishing.