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Burl wood veneers usually have some defects, most commonly, they will have holes in them. These holes must be repaired before you can use your veneer in a project. Fortunately, there is a very easy way to repair this veneer and make it look like those holes were never there!
I am using a nice piece of walnut burl veneer to demonstrate this technique. I made three repairs to this piece of veneer. The worst and most glaring defect was a hole in the veneer that was over an inch wide.
Basically, the way I repair these types of defects is by filling the hole with a piece (or pieces) of veneer that I cut from scraps of similar veneer.
One thing I should mention here is that all cutting is done on the back side of the veneer. Your repair will be harder to see if you work from the back side and you are also much less likely to accidentally damage the show side of your veneer.
The first step in repairing these types of defects is to place a piece of blue masking tape across the front side of the defect. I use the blue painters tape because it is easier to remove than regular masking tape.
The second step is to find a scrap piece of veneer that looks similar to the veneer you are working with. If that is not available the important thing to remember is that the patch should usually be darker than the surrounding area. This is because we are trying to simulate a knot in the wood. In fact, most of the time the hole actually is a knot that has fallen out.
The patch that you cut will probably need some adjusting before it will fit. Hold the piece of patch material up to the hole and trim the edges of it until the shape of the patch fits the shape of the hole.
Sometimes it is hard to hold the tiny pieces of veneer that I use to fill the defects so oftentimes I will pick them up by stabbing them with my knife.
With smaller repairs you can usually fill them with one piece of patch material. The large hole in this veneer required several pieces. It is very difficult to fit a patch in that is exactly the same shape and size as the hole your are trying to fill, but don’t worry if you have a few small voids in your repair because there are easy ways to fix them.
Once you have the hole filled with patch material then rub some yellow glue into the repair. The glue serves multiple functions. First, it will help to hold the patch in place even before it dries. Second, the moisture from the glue cause the patch to swell a bit which helps to get a seamless repair.
Once you’ve added some glue then place a little more patch material over the repair area. Now, take a blunt object, like an upside-down screwdriver, and smush the excess material into the repair. I used an upside down Xacto knife.
Once the defect is sufficiently filled then add a bit more glue, cover it with blue tape, and let it sit for several hours. Covering the patch with tape will cause the glue to dry more slowly. This gives it more time to soak in and more time for the patch to swell in place.
When I removed the tape the next day it looked “OK”, and it probably would have been fine, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so I added a bit more patch material and covered it up for another day. After that, it was perfect!
Smaller repairs, like the one pictured below, go much more quickly.
I hope you liked this article. Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free leave a comment.
You might also be interested in my video about How to Flatten Veneer with Hot Plates and an Oven!