Cheap Furniture FU

So my son was putting together a bookcase for his oldest sister’s move out, a fine job except for one mistake. he nailed the backing into the finished side. What a sorry dad I am, I heard him complaining about how hard it was to get the nails in, but it still did’nt register with me… Anyway, at this point that finished side is full of holes. I was thinking of getting some thin wood strips, painting white, and gluing to the particle board, but would need to rip these to the perfect width. How would you fix this?

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If I had to fix this I would buy some white formica countertop material, cut it into strips a little wider than the raw edges you need to cover up, and glue them in place with contact cement. Formica can be cut by scoring it with a utility knife and then snapping it. Once the strips are glued down use a router with a laminate trimming bit to cut the edges flush. That should look like it came from the factory that way.
Another option that might be easier is to buy some iron-on edge banding instead of the formica strips & contact cement.

Whatever method you use I think it is going to be tricky to try and rip strips to the exact right size and then install them in perfect alignment. However if you apply an oversize strip then the router will cut it off perfectly flush using either a laminate bit or a pattern bit.

You might also consider painting the edge directly. A few coats of primer with sanding between ought to get a smooth surface.

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MechaMan’s solution is the nice way to go. Use formica or wood, cut it slightly large, then trim to size. I don’t work with formica, but I’m told you want a specific router bit meant for formica so you don’t chip it.

I’m a little concerned about how to stick the stuff to the raw particleboard edges. They usually use contact cement to glue formica to particleboard, but usually to the board faces, which are smoother, not the edges. I’ve seen a lot of edge banding peeling off particleboard edges, maybe because they used the regular contact cement. So maybe you want a different glue. Polyurethane glue will foam and swell, which you don’t want. Maybe carpenter’s glue would work, but it’s water based, and I wonder if it would swell the particleboard. So maybe epoxy is best, crazy as that sounds.

If you don’t have a router, you can trim the wood (or maybe formica too, I don’t know) with a hand plane, or maybe a sander. You might want to find a thin sheet of metal or something to shield the finished sides from the sander.

Or, and this is what I would likely do, you can fill in the rough particleboard with some kind of filler compound. I’ve heard good things about Bondo, the auto body stuff, because it dries fast and doesn’t shrink. Then sand smooth and paint. Less dust and noise.

Gotta say, I hate particleboard with a passion. Heavy, fragile, sags under load, doesn’t hold nails or even usual screws. And I think some of it outgasses formaldehyde. Even OSB is better.

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In my experience the edge banding which often peels off is rarely secured with contact cement. It’s either iron-on, or it’s self adhesive, just like tape.

Bondo is good stuff but it has a learning curve. You mix it up like epoxy and you do not get very long before it starts to set up. There is no way you could do that surface in one go, you’d have to do multiple batches. Once it fully sets it is extremely hard, so the trick is to carefully watch it and once it starts to set up you can do the bulk of the work with a rasp before it gets fully hard. I wouldn’t recommend this as a first time bondo project because if you don’t get that timing right you’re either making a huge mess or you’re signing yourself up for a lot of difficult sanding.

If I were to paint this directly I’d grab a can or two of Zinsser B-I-N aerosol primer. It’s shellac based, it dries extremely fast and is unlikely to swell anything. It’s also good at covering stains and avoiding anything that might bleed through. A few coats of that + some simple sanding with a block and you should have a smooth surface to paint.


Edge banding and call it a day.

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I’d remove the back, flip the cabinet, and replace the back on the proper side. Then I’d fill the holes and repaint if necessary

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You’re right, now that I think about it. Bondo would take some care. I’ve used Bondo for little things like filling nail holes, and there it works great. For this kind of project, you’d want to use small amounts at a time, applied with a gloved finger, moving along bit by bit. But there shouldn’t be so much excess that you’d have to rasp any off. There might be bits at the corner, but that’s it.

But you don’t have to use Bondo. Ordinary wood filler would work too. I would use an oil-based filler. It would take hours to harden, and it’s easy to sand. The fumes aren’t bad either.

Your idea of spray primer sounds fast and easy, but I’d be concerned that it wouldn’t completely fill the voids in particleboard, which is rougher and more porous than any solid wod. You wouldn’t get a smooth surface, so it would telegraph through the paint as particleboard. You could spray many coats and sand between them, as you suggest, but that’s a lot of spraying (and fumes and overspray). And you’d have to mask off the parts you don’t want sprayed, which is more work. And it might not be so easy to carry that cabinet outside for spraying. And you’d be using spray primer to fill voids, when there’s a product (wood filler) that’s designed specifically to do that.

Here’s a video on using wood filler on the edges of MDF, which is less rough and more uniform than particleboard, but I think the techniques should apply. The key is sort of scraping the filler onto the board edge, with crossways or diagonal strokes, THEN smoothing it with long strokes along the edge.

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Would you use this stuff or something else? 3M High Strength Small Hole Repair, All in One Applicator Tool

I haven’t used that particular filler before, but just about any filler would be fine. I’ve used primarily used Minwax Stainable filler and DAP PlasticWood, so that’s what I have.

Depending on the finish (which might be good enough plain) I would try some dabbing white trim paint and wipe it off the edge band so it just covers the wood filler. This isn’t fine furniture, I’m not sure how picky you’ll be.

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My gripe with wood filler is that I have never found one which “sticks” well into the surface I am trying to fill. I’d tear my hair out in frustration before I’d done 6 inches. Maybe I’ve just never come across a filler I like? The reason I suggested the spray primer is that it does not have any sort of sticking problem and is really easy to apply. I’ve used it to seal the edges of modifications made to cheapo particle board office furniture before and it works well with about 3 coats.
Good point about the fumes though, BIN primer has strong fumes so that might be a concern depending on where you might be doing the work.

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Ah, right. Sticking. Hm.

Well, I know people also use drywall compound for filling wood when it’s going to be covered with paint. Have you tried that? (I haven’t.)

I just checked Fine Woodworking, and their most recent mini-review of wood filler is this:

He didn’t seem to have any problem making the stuff stick, and you can lay on more than one layer, which apparently is (was) unique.

The Fine Woodworking forum doesn’t have any recent posts on the topic. Maybe you (or I) should post a question?

But sure, I could see the primer wouldn’t have a problem sticking. In fact I wonder if a coat of primer wouldn’t help wood filler stick better. It would seal down any dust and particles that might impede adhesion.

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Well so far, the guys at the Fine Woodworking form have this to say re a good filler to use on particleboard edges:

| Apr 18, 2022 01:52pm | #1

I like Durham’s Rock hard water putty. It cures fast. But it’s an awful lot of moisture for particle board.

If I had to pick something for particle board it wouldn’t be water based. Bondo would do it.

But I’ve never put paint or a finish on particle board. Even the faces don’t finish well. Yuck.

| Apr 18, 2022 05:57pm | #2

I’ve used DAP Wallboard Joint Compound (from Lowes) for MDF; apply a thin coat and let dry. Too much and you’ll be sanding it down forever. Worked well for my needs but not sure how that might work for particle board; perhaps worth a try. For painting, I used Zinsser cover stain (oil based), followed by a latex top coat or two. Again, worked for me but the rough particle board surface might be more of a challenge…

| Apr 18, 2022 06:36pm | #3

Mohawk makes an epoxy putty stick that is easy to use and it will not come out of the gaps. You can also mix up what you need so you’re not wasting filler. Sands very well and takes all finishes.

| Apr 18, 2022 07:27pm | #4

I used epoxy to do such task, first I painted laminating resin to consolidate the rough edges and applied thickened coats of epoxy and sanded away the excess.

I think epoxy putty sounds like the surest bet. Easy to apply and no moisture. But I’ve never used it myself.


Ha! That Mohawk putty comes in white, as well as a few other colors. If you do a really nice job, you might not need to paint it! But the working time is only 10 minutes, and it’s sandable after 20, so don’t dillydally!

I’ll give that Aqua Coat filler a whirl next time I happen to need some. It can’t hurt to try it!

I’m skeptical of the epoxy putty. I’ve used many brands over the years and I’d describe the consistency like modeling clay and it is not sticky in the slightest. Now I haven’t tried it so maybe this Mohawk brand is different, but from my experience I’d pick nearly anything before epoxy putty. It’s fine for fitting into large gaps, but I can’t imagine trying to get something the consistency of play-doh to stick on the fine texture of a particle board edge.

I could see the joint compound working easily. It spreads easily, it sticks, and it’s easy to sand. But I’d be worried that the water content might swell the particle board. Then again, if that poster says it works for MDF I’d imagine it would work for particle board too. Keep the coat thin and there shouldn’t be an excess amount of moisture to swell anything.

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Good to hear your experience with epoxy putty!

I’ve heard of people using joint compound for woodworking elsewhere. I guess you could try a bit of it on an out-of-the-way spot to see if it swells the particleboard.

If it does, I wonder if it would make sense to spray or brush some oil-based sealer or primer on first to prevent water from entering. It might improve adhesion too.

I’m sure an oil-based sealer or primer would prevent water entering. Shellac would work too. When you do drywall repairs and there is exposed torn paper (brown color), you can’t just mud over it or the paper will suck up the water from the mud and will bubble up and blister. To prevent that you must seal the rough torn paper before mudding over it. I’m sure a primer is the optimum tool for the job but I’ve done it with plain 'ol spray paint and it worked great. Given that it works for something as absorbent as torn paper I’m sure it would work for this too.

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