Instructables

Antique Furniture Gingerbread Trim Repair with wood filler

Picture of Antique Furniture Gingerbread Trim Repair with wood filler
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This is a "quick tip" more than a "how to".   I was working on an antique tiger oak sideboard .  The customer only wanted me to make minor repairs, do touch up etc.  She wanted to keep it in as original shape as possible and had a very small budget .  One of the cabinet doors was missing a sizeable piece of decorative "gingerbread" trim.  It had a curving piece of oak missing and was quite noticable. 

What I used:

Card stock or stiff paper
Elmers wood filler
sandpaper
small sharp chisel
dremel
craft paint (oak wood colors)
laquer spray


Carving a delicate piece out of oak was out of the question for the time and budget available.  I had the idea to sculpt wood filler.  However, I didn't want to gob it on and needed to be neat so the surrounding area wasn't damaged etc.  I rolled up a cone from some stiff paper.  I filled the paper with a generous amount of Elmers wood filler.  I cut the tip off the cone and squeezed out the wood filler like frosting from a pastry cone.  After practicing on some scrap, I gave it a shot.  It gave me the diameter I needed and wasn't too messy.  I let it harden over nite and then carefully shaped it with a sharp chisel, dremel and sandpaper.  I used regular craft paint to try to match up the color.  The repair was top coated with some laquer spray.  Overall the effect was achieved and the customer was happy. 

I am an artist (wood carver and mixed media) and am also rennovating a circa 1860 house. I just lucked into a quantity of elmer's wood filler and could hardly wait home to try it on several projects. Even before opening it, I anticipated needing to thicken it with fine sawdust, which I have arranged for but not yet recieved. I like the consistency for piping (I'd use Wilton cake decorating tools) but not for hand sculpting or moulding. I rolled some into a ball to get the cracks and crevices out so they don;t show on the mold and it was too stick to work with. It also took MUCH longer than otehr brands to dry (none have dried yet after 2 days) Have you tried altering the consistency at all? Did it strike you as fragile once it was dry? I very much like the creaminess and that the clean up is so easy ((soab and water) Thanks.

Hi Laurel,

I haven't tried changing the consistency. I have used the filler in a similar fashion on other projects with mixed results. It can be fragile when dried. Adhesion is another challenge on a flat surface. It's easy to knock loose if you are too rough with it. I try to scuff the area I apply it to when using filler like this. Drying though has never been a problem. It usually dries fairly quickly ( I live in deep south Texas so its always warm here).

Thanks so much for your quick and thorough reply. I really appreciate it. I did a few test samples and concluded that in terms of durability, it works for bas relief but not for 3D sculpture or even, I suspect, something like a cube or a ball, as the bits that have dried so far seem a bit crumbly when expected to stand alone. Adding any sort of thickener is unlikely to improve that.

I did wonder if cold weather slows down the drying. I worked with it in our house in the Asheville NC area, where the temps over the weekend ranged from a low of about 45, to a high of around 65. Even when set next to the heater to dry, a piece in a 1" square mold was nowhere near dry after 24 hours.

Thanks again.
You did a good job and the repair is hardly noticeable. How easy was it to shape the dried filler with the dremel tool? I have a few bits and pieces on my antique box collection that I’d like to restore, but I’m worried about damaging the wood as that would be hard to touch up properly.
Thanks for the kind words! Shaping the filler wasn't too difficult. My biggest concern was applying too much pressure and breaking the filler free from the surface and having to start over. Just go slowly, using the dremel a little at a time. Also try an emery board. It will work really well as it will let you sand in the tight areas. I've stolen a couple from my wife's vanity and they work great!

I have done another similar project recently. This project was missing sections of detail. However, on the other side of the piece were the same shapes. I pressed modeling clay against it to make an impression and then poured resin in the impression to make a duplicate piece of carving. Once the resin dried I peeled away the clay and painted the piece to match. It worked pretty well and I hope to do an Instructable on it soon.

If you decide to give the boxes a try with the filler please tack a photo on here to let us see how it goes. Thank! Clark