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How to Repair a Dog-Chewed Newel Post

This Old House general contractor Tom Silva explains how to bring a gnawed newel post back to its original splendor.

Tom Silva returns to an old project to fix a new issue. The homeowners have a new four-legged friend, and he’s been chewing on the trim around the newel post. Since the trim is custom, Tom has a challenge to conquer. Tom gets to work by creating custom moldings, matching the new trim to the old woodwork, and cutting, gluing, and nailing the moldings in place for a near-seamless look.

How To Repair a Dog-Chewed Newel Post

  1. The first step is to assess the damage. A bit of wood filler and stain might do the job for small bits of damage. For larger jobs, it might be necessary to remove the trim altogether and make custom moldings.
  2. To remove the existing chewed trim, tap the molding with the rubber mallet to loosen its hold. If necessary, use a chisel to separate each piece. Since the moldings are probably going to be challenging to match, remove all the moldings and start fresh.
  3. Use a piece of scrap wood stock and attempt to match the stain to the existing woodwork. It’s often necessary to choose two or three stains or even mix them, to achieve the ideal color. Remember that wood is a natural material, and colors can vary within the same board, so the goal is to get it close, not make it perfect.
  4. Cut strips of molding to width on the table saw. If there’s a piece of the old molding handy, use it as a spacer between the fence and the blade to achieve the correct width without painstaking measurements.
  5. Install the appropriate router bit set in the router table. Ogee bits are usually ideal for this job, as the ogee is a common molding profile in homes of all styles and types. Don protective eyewear and hearing protection. Carefully run scrap wood stock across the molding to create the profile. To add a bit more flair to the molding, raise the table saw blade to just slightly over the table’s surface (around ⅛-inch) and run the molding over the blade, creating a new profile. This may require a few adjustments to the router table or table saw before achieving the ideal profile, so be patient. Once it looks good, run the rest of the wood stock through the same process.
  6. Sand the new molding with a power sander. If desired, round over the sharp edges with the sander during this step.
  7. Using the stain formula concocted earlier, apply stain to the molding. Be sure to work it into any nooks and crannies before wiping it off again with a rag. Continue staining each piece until it blends with the existing woodwork.
  8. Again, put on eye and ear protection. Use the miter saw to cut the new moldings to length. Be sure to carefully miter the corners for the best result. Note: It’s best to start long and remove small amounts of wood until each piece fits perfectly. This takes longer, but the end result is a better repair.
  9. Apply a bit of glue to the back of each piece of molding and attach it to the newel post with brads or pins.

Allow the stain to dry a few days before applying polyurethane or another topcoat. Also, let that topcoat dry for a few days before using any no-chew sprays to the newel post.