How to Easily Repair Dents in Wood Veneer

Refinishing wooden furniture involves learning how to make minor and major repairs. It can be daunting to attempt a repair you have never done before. Heck, I once classified dents and deep scratches as major repairs! Wood filler and paint were my go-to recipes! 

 

My gosh, I am so embarrassed to admit that!

 

As I developed my skills, I wanted to keep wood grain exposed. Vintage furniture is prone to collecting dents over the years of use. It is a common problem which actually has a simple solution to repair. Let me show you how to repair dents in wood veneer and solid wood surfaces!

Table of Contents

Understanding Wood and Wood Veneer

Wood and wood veneer structure is critical to understanding when repairing dents is possible and when it is not. 

 

Wood is fibrous! When a dent occurs, the wood fibre is bent inward. If the fibres are not broken completely, you can add moisture and apply heat. This causes the fibres to swell back into place, minimizing or even making the dent appear to disappear. 

 

Where the dent is deep and has broken the wood fibres, it may not be possible to fully repair it, but you can attempt to raise it as much as possible.  

 

Denting veneer increases the risk of breaking through the fibers entirely. This is because veneer is a thin layer of wood. Check out just how thin veneer is.

 

But you can still try!

Unsure if your furniture is Veneer?

Check out this handy list on how to determine veneer from solid wood furniture.

Examine the Damaged Area

Dent and Scratches in wood veneer can be removed easily
You can still see the dent despite having sanded already

A key way to determine if the fibres have been broken is to use your fingers. Touch the affected area gently to feel for splinters or sharply raised wood edges. These are signs of broken wood fibres.

 

Check for any additional splits in the wood where water or steam could travel deeper. Where possible, avoid introducing steam into the wood or into the wood finish. 

 

Therefore, if you find loose veneer, missing veneer, a small chip, or even bubbled veneer you will want to handle these larger repairs before you tackle shallow dents.

 

You can still attempt this technique for broken wood fibres, but it will not work as well as when fibres are bent. If the dent is significant enough, you may want to replace the veneer in that area with new veneer. 

Tools Needed

The tool list for this repair is short and sweet!

Cloths Iron

Dry Iron is a valuable tool in the workshop

This provides the heat to help relax the wood fibres and raise the dent. Use an iron with temperature settings to control the amount of heat applied.

 

I swear by my Dry Iron in the workshop.  I do not want to worry about steam occuring at the wrong time. Using a dry iron means I no longer have this worry.

 

You could use a steam iron, but turn off the steam function; it could ruin the surrounding finish.

White cotton cloth

A clean white cotton t-shirt, dish towel, or other absorbent 100% cotton cloth is ideal. This helps evenly distribute the steam without damaging the wood surface. Why do we avoid coloured cloth when refinishing furniture? They may bleed dye onto the wood! 

Water spray bottle

Spray Mister to add water when painting

This is used to thoroughly dampen the cloth before ironing. Opt for a spray bottle that produces a fine mist and fill it with plain water.

I love this misting bottle.  I use it mainly when painting to keep paint wet and minimize brush strokes.

Sand Paper

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Process

The process of removing dents with heat and steam is relatively simple. You may need to repeat the steps multiple times for the best results. Use the basic techniques listed below and practice patience.  It’s better to take your time and allow the heat and water to work their magic.

Prepare the Surface

You want to ensure that your surface is free of dirt, dust, and grease. So clean the surface that you will be working on with a mild, degreasing dish soap.

 

Wipe up any excess moisture from the surface so that it is dry and clean. If necessary, give the wood time to dry fully. We want to target the dent and not affect the surrounding wood. 

 

You can try making this minor repair with the existing finish on. It usually works. 

Add Moisture

Add water to the location of the dent in wood veneer

Lightly spray the dent with your spray bottle. If your bottle cannot target the spot well, could you try dropping a few drops of water into the dent.

 

You want enough water to ensure the dent is moist but not soaking wet. Let the water absorb into the dent for 5 minutes. 

 

Too much moisture seeping into the veneer layer could cause the glue to lose its adherence. Therefore, you should target the dent you want to repair and avoid wetting undamaged veneer.

Apply Heat

Apply Heat to the wet dent to steam the wood fibres

Take your clean, white cotton cloth and dampen it. You do not want it sopping wet!

Place the damp cloth over the dented area. Move the iron over the cloth covering the dent using a clothing iron set to low to medium heat.

Target the area and allow the iron to heat the cloth for 30 to 60 seconds. Make small movements if the dent is longer then your iron. 

Remove the iron and lift the cloth. Run your fingers over the dent lightly. It should feel warm, and the dent should be minimized. 

Should the wood not feel warm, try setting the iron to the highest setting, but minimize the time you let the iron sit on the cloth. 

If you still feel a low spot, you may need to repeat this step. It may take several cycles of heat and water to raise severe dents fully. Work in small sections and take your time.

Finishing Touches

Sand the spot with the dent after it's been raised sufficiently

When satisfied and the dent has been mostly raised, you’ll want to smooth the area and blend it back into the surrounding veneer or wood. Lightly sand the raised section with fine-grit sandpaper (such as 150 to 180 grit), going with the direction of the grain of the wood. Be very careful not to sand too aggressively, or you may end up burning through the veneer.

 

Check out these tips on how to sand veneer successfully!

Too late? Then these tips on how to mask burnt-through veneer.

 

After sanding, apply the finish of your choice to match the rest of the surface. The best way to mask any work is to ensure the finish remains the same sheen. If your finish is oil, you may want to oil the entire surface to ensure the spot blends in. 

 

With patience and practice, you can make dents in wood and veneer practically invisible!

Final Thoughts

The dent is nearly fully raised.

The first time I gathered the courage to attempt to raise a dent, I thought it would not work. I was surprised when, within minutes, I removed the dented veneer and sanded the area smoothly.

 

I now use this easy fix to remove any dents on a piece of furniture before the final sanding. It works well with veneer, and even in cases where the veneer fibres have been broken, it is still possible to minimize the dents. So try this trick and share with your fellow refinishers the easy method of removing dents from veneer!

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

Join me as I share my discoveries and gained knowledge with our vibrant community of fellow refinishers!

This post may contain amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, if you decide to make a purchase through the provided links, at no additional cost to you.

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