Though strong and sturdy, often lasting for generations, even a solid wood table top can get damaged. Chipped or gouged corners are the most common complaint, but these steps can be used on any part of the surface to bring it back to life. Restoring a table top to its original beauty takes some work, but it can be done with the right tools and attention to detail.
Step 1 - Survey Damage to the Table Top
With the table top under some good lighting, take a close look at the damage. Scan the surface carefully to ensure there are no small chips or cracks and to examine the full extent of the chip and any other gouges in the surface.
Step 2 - Buy Replacement Wood
A solid wood table top can be repaired by clearing away the wood surrounding the chip and replacing it with a new piece, called a "Dutchman." If you can, spend a little time looking for the same type of wood that the table top is already made out of. This will give the top consistency in look and quality. If this isn't doable, then get as close as you can.
Step 3 - Mark and Remove a Square Around the Chip
Using a pencil and square, draw a small square around the chipped area. This is the section of wood that you will be removing.
Score the outline of the square with a chisel and hammer. If the square is not too big, you can remove all of the wood with the chisel. However, larger pieces can be done a little easier with a Dremel and a grinding wheel bit. Work at the chip until it is completely removed. You do not have to go very deep with the cut; only cut slightly deeper than the chip in the wood is.
Step 4 - Square Up Sides and Bottom
Once the square has been removed, square up the sides and the bottom to make everything level. You can use the Dremel with a sanding attachment, or you can use a chisel.
Step 5 - Cut Replacement Wood to Size
Measure the dimensions of the squarem and cut the replacement piece of wood to size. The use of a bandsaw or a small scroll saw will make this part much easier.
Step 6 - Glue in Wood
Clean out the square hole and apply wood glue. Cover the area completely, but don't put too much glue or the Dutchman will float rather than sit flush. Insert the wood piece, making sure it sits flush on the bottom of the square. Clean off the excess glue with a cloth. Clamp the patch in place, and let it dry overnight.
Step 7 - Sand and Finish
Once the repair is dry, sand off the excess glue, and make sure the Dutchman is flush with the rest of the table top. Clean off the table top with a damp rag, and then finish it with your favorite stain. You may consider choosing to refinish the entire table top for a more universal look.