How to Repair Finish on Oak Furniture

Written by sally keller
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How to Repair Finish on Oak Furniture
Oak (furniture image by Vladimirs Koskins from

Owning pieces of oak furniture is something to take pride in. Oak furniture is beautiful to look at and will last a long time when properly cared for. Mishaps can sometimes leave scratches, dents, gouges or water marks on your furniture. There are simple, tried and true methods for repairing the finish on oak furniture for different kinds of damage. Some are as simple as applying an oak-coloured wax stick to fill in a shallow scratch. Other finish repairs are more complicated but still simple to do and will restore the finish on oak furniture if done properly.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wax patching stick
  • Soft polishing cloth
  • Paste wax
  • Wood filler or putty
  • Putty knife
  • Face mask
  • Protective eye wear
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Furniture oil
  • Sanding sealer
  • Oil-based furniture stain
  • Rag (optional)
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • Cotton swab (optional)
  • Top coat

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  1. 1

    For scratches, apply a wax patching stick in a colour that matches the piece of furniture into the scratch. Wipe away any excess that remains and let the wax dry. Buff paste wax into the area after the wax patching stick is dry to blend it in with the rest of the finish.

  2. 2

    For gouges, apply a matching wood filler or putty to the gouge, filling it up completely. Let it dry according to the manufacturer's directions. Sand gently with a fine grit sandpaper in the direction of the wood grain until the dried wood filler is level with the undamaged area. Remove any dust or dirt from the sanded area then polish and wax the area to restore it to the same finish as the rest of the piece.

  3. 3

    For water damage, rub a furniture oil into the water-damaged area to repair the finish. If this doesn't work; refinish the area by gently sanding the area in the direction of the grain and let it dry out for three or four days. Apply a thin coat of sanding sealer and let it dry. You will then apply a stain.

  4. 4

    To apply the stain, use one that is oil-based in a shade lighter than the oak finish. Start with a small amount of stain on a rag, brush or cotton swab. If the colour is too light, apply several coats. Rub excess stain with a dry rag. If too dark, moisten a rag in white spirit to lighten the wood. Apply the top coat of your choice and, after it dries, polish and wax the area.

Tips and warnings

  • To make sure the repaired finish will match the original finish, try the colour on a small, inconspicuous area first.
  • Be sure to wear protective eye wear and a face mask when sanding or using stain.

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