How To Surgically Patch A Hole

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Learning how to surgically patch a hole over a decorative finish is an invaluable skill.   In this post, I’ll show you how to patch a ding, divot, or in this case, a pretty major scar in the finish.   How to mix the correct color to camouflage the patch – that’s another post.

Tools needed:   2 inch flexible metal blade, sharp knife, fast-drying patch (ready-patch, bondo, etc.), EZ-45 patching compound, selection of sandpaper, shellac, small brush for shellac, and blue tape (orange core).

Things to remember:

  • be SURGICAL in every step, otherwise the patch will end up doubling in size
  • don’t rush the patching compound – sometimes we use a hair dryer to speed up the drying, but cracking is possible as well as trapping moisture under a dry layer

First, use your sharpest blade to carefully cut out the damage.  Cutting with an angular pattern is desirable.

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Gently pull out the damaged area.

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Use at least 1.5 inch blue tape to mask off the hole.  IMPORTANT! leave a sliver of the undamaged substrate to “grab” the patching material.  Burnish the tape nicely to prevent bleeding.

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Now you are ready for the first patching.  Use a fast-drying patching material.  This layer will do 90% of the work of patching the hole.  Load your knife with a conservative amount of putty and apply to the patch.

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Try to completely fill the patch, but also try not to OVERFILL it.

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Let dry.  Sand with a 150 grit Sandpaper to cut through the dried compound.

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Remove the tape and use a 320 grit sandpaper to surgically sand the ridge where the tape was.

Re-tape the patch.  Again, leave a sliver of the un-patched substrate for “grab”.   Burnish the tape.

For the second patch, use a powdery, easy sanding compound like EZ-45.  Apply a clean layer but a bit generous so that this will be your final fill.

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Sand with 320 and then a 500 grit pad.

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Remove the tape and surgically sand the tiny lip near the tape with the 500 grit.

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Using a small brush, apply a coat of clear shellac to the patch.

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And now your patch is ready for painting.  This method is tedious but will make a huge difference in the quality of the touch-up.  This example was on a polished plaster that has a glass-like finish.  The patch had to be perfectly smooth, otherwise you’d see it.

So there you have it – first patch-it, then match-it!!



  1. thanks! i love the shellac idea. never thought of that..

  2. Thanks Pierre!

  3. Very helpful tips, Pierre. I am looking forward to your post on colour matching and am hoping you have an easier way than the trial and error method that I usually use!

  4. Thanks for SUCH an informative tutorial. I will have to forward it to those who repair before I get to the job, especially the part about masking the hole!! Why does everyone think it’s necessary to extend the patching materials an extra foot in diameter, and then make it a rigid square as well!

  5. Thanks for sharing, that is a terrific tutorial!

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