How to Repair a Gouge in an Oak Table

Damage to the underlying wood caused by a gouge in a hardwood such as oak, represents one of the most difficult furniture repairs you'll encounter. With a few hand tools, wood filler and a shellac stick, even an amateur at furniture repair can create a professional looking repair job that restores the beauty of your oak table.

Cut away any loose splinters of wood or chips of the clear coat from around the damaged area. Clean up the edges of the gouge with the razor and small chisels so the lines are clean and easier to disguise in the final repair.

Fill the gouge with wood filler. Press the filler material into the gouge with a putty knife and smooth the surface level with the surrounding wood. Do not fill the gouge to the top of the finish. The layer above the wood is where the colouring and clear coat will be added and is key to disguising the repair. Allow the filler to harden overnight.

Use the tip of a piece of sandpaper to sand the surface of the filler smooth and level. Gently feather the edges of the clear coat away from the edges of the damage.

Apply oil stain to the filler so it matches the oak finish of the surrounding area. Apply the stain lightly. Add more stain if you need to darken the colour. Remember the stain will darken once the clearcoat is applied, especially if you use an amber clearcoat. It would be wise to test a piece of the filler with stain and clearcoat first, before you apply the stain.

Disguise the repair by adding grain lines. If you have a flair for art, you can use a darker wood stain and a thin art brush to extend the lines in the surrounding wood into the repaired area. With minimal skill it's relatively easy to reproduce the wood grain. Allow everything to dry overnight. Lightly buff with 0000 grade steel wool.

Clear-fill the space between the top of the repair and the surrounding clearcoat with polyurethane or a shellac stick, following the manufacturer's instructions for applying the coating. Apply the clearcoat in thin layers.

Adjust the sheen of the final coat by sanding with very fine sandpaper or by rubbing and polishing with a linen cloth to the same sheen as the surrounding area.


For very deep gouges, fill the gouge with water-based putty most of the way to the top and then use a shellac stick to fill the remainder of the gouge to the top, according to manufacturer's instructions. The deep shellac coat will help disguise the depth of the damage.


Use eye protection and prottective gloves when working with solvents, stains and clearcoat.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood filler
  • Wood putty
  • Sharp razor knife
  • Chisel set
  • Putty knife
  • Camel-hair brush, 3 inches
  • Artist's thin camel-hair paint brush
  • Matching oil stain
  • Polyurethane clearcoat finish
  • Paint thinner
  • Sandpaper, medium, fine and extra fine
  • 0000 steel wool
  • Eye protection
  • Protective gloves
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About the Author

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.