How to Fix a Crack in a Wood Shelf

Cracks are an unfortunate fact when dealing with wood products.

Hairline Cracks

Although not as common with newer furniture as the older, cracks are created by more than just age and can occur from misuse or excessive weight. Restoration of a cracked wood shelf will often return it to use with no one even realizing it was once damaged. Repairs to small hairline cracks up to the size of a pinhead are fairly easy and will generally only take about an hour from start to finish.

Step 1

Evaluate the size and location of the crack to the shelf. If it is overly long or a danger structurally, you may have to consider replacing the shelf completely.

Step 2

Fill small hairline cracks with wood fill putty. Use a small putty knife and spread wood fill into the crack perpendicularly to the crack. This will force the filler into the crack better than drawing the knife along the same direction as the crack.

Step 3

Wipe the knife clean and use it to scrape off the excess putty on the wood. Be careful not to pull the putty from the crack. It may take two coats of the putty to get it filled evenly.

Step 4

Sand the crack after it has dried for the duration indicated on the wood fill package. Use fine grit sandpaper with smooth even strokes, following the grain of the wood if possible. When smooth, wipe the wood clean and finish with stain or paint to complete the repair.

Larger Cracks

Step 1

Clean the crack to make sure there is no trapped debris. Use a can of compressed air to blow dust or small flakes of wood from the crack.

Step 2

Use a utility knife to carefully cut out the edge of the crack to create a V shape. This may not be possible for the entire length of the crack, but it will benefit the larger areas.

Step 3

Fill the tip of a putty knife with wood filler and begin slowly packing it into the crack. If the crack is very narrow, the tip of the utility knife may work better. Pack the filler tightly and overfill the crack rather than leave it flush with the wood.

Step 4

Allow the wood fill to dry for the duration indicated in the instructions. Use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth the repaired crack flush with the rest of the wood. Use smooth, even strokes and avoid gouging the repaired wood fill.

Step 5

Clean the shelf with a damp cloth to remove any dust from the sanding. Use wood stain or paint to hide the repair.

Things You Will Need

  • Wood filler
  • Small putty knife
  • Clean rag
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Stain or paint
  • Can of compressed air
  • Utility knife


  • Wood filler comes in different shades, so try to find one that closely matches the original wood if you are not going to hide the repair under paint.


  • Be sure to mound the wood fill over the crack to allow it to be sanded flush. The material shrinks as it dries and will be easier to work with if raised.
  • Be careful with the cracked section and don’t place anything too heavy on it or the crack may return.