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Claw Toe Repair

How to Repair Wood Toes on Clawed Feet Furniture

This is a little project I did last week.There are a few pictures I will add later, but here is the process to repair the toes or scroll work on antique furniture. The piece of furniture is a 1820's New York, Cornucopia Sofa with Acanthus Leaf carvings. It has 4-toed paw or claw feet and the wood is mahogany. Several of the claw nails have been knocked off and one whole toe has been knocked off and lost. The glue joint in another complete toe has failed. Fortunately, this is the same image and orientation for the toe that I need to duplicate. The tools and supplies that you will need are:
Tools that are a must have:
Dremel and or flex shaft grinder with a 1/16" and 1/8" ball bit and a 1/8 and 1/4 Cylinder bits
1 or 2 clamps
1/4" and 3/8" Very Sharp Chisels.
Tin snipes
Plastic putty spreaders
Vacuum cleaner.
Other tools that I used:
12 ton press
Press Blocks
Norlock Surelok II metal cincher.

Supplies that are needed:
Modelling Clay
Fiberglass resin with clear hardener
Minwax high performance 2 part wood filler
2 Part 20 minute epoxy
Titebond II wood glue
Mixing Bowl and popsicile sticks
Scrap 20 gauge aluminum about 1" wide and 20"+ long
Quick dry Spray Lacquer
Disposable Horsehair Acid Brushes
Sand paper - 80 grit, 120 grit and 220 grit

Foot 1 - Beginning
Here is a picture of the whole toe that is missing after prep. Using 80 grit sand paper and your chisels remove any irregularities and scuff the surface where the glue can bite.


The left toe is the one that fell off. This toe was used to create a mold and the right toe is the resulting fiberglass replacement toe. To make the mold take the scrap aluminum metal and cut it to a strip thickness that to whole toe will fit in complete. For mine this was 1". Make a circle out of the aluminum band and  fasten together. I cinched it with the Surelock, but a rivet or screw would work. Now the toe should fit into the circle with none of the toe above the aluminum. Set the aluminum ring on another piece of aluminum. Pack the ring with the modelling clay. With the acid brush coat the finished surface of the toe with Vaseline. Place the toe into the modelling clay. I put the aluminum sheet between two pressing block and used the 12 ton press to slowly press the toe into the clay until it was completely inside the ring and  the excess clay oozed out between the seams in the aluminum ring and press blocks. Carefully remove the toe from the modelling clay without deforming the mold or detail. Check the mold that all the details are the same as the toe removed. Spray the inside of the mold with Spray Lacquer. While the lacquer is drying  mix up the fiberglass resin with hardener. For this toe it was about 2 ounces with 30 drops of liquid hardener. Stir completely and pour into the mold. Make sure the mold is level. and overfill slightly. Let resin cure for a couple of hours and de-mold the fiberglass toe. It should look like the original toe like the picture does above.


Lay a piece of 80 grit sand paper and sand the mounting surface of the fiberglass toe until flat. Use either sandpaper or the Dremel and remove the flash at the edges. Mix thoroughly the 2 part epoxy on a spreader and apply to fiberglass toe and the foot. Put the pieces together, align and clamp. I try to make the  toe align exactly with the in-between the toes and the bottom of the whole foot. Originally, each one of these toes were carved individually and glued together and the carving tweaked to make it look right. Each toe and foot are unique and a perfect match is impossible. The mismatch will be corrected in the next step. Let the epoxy dry for a couple of hours.


Look carefully at the picture above and you will also note some cracking across the foot.
Use the Dremel or flex tool with a 1/16" bit to v-cut the cracks and with the cylinder bit grid down the edges of the fiberglass toe to blend in with the wood.
Vacuum off shavings and debris. Mix the Minwax putty and fill all the v-cuts and form the toe to blend in the fiberglass. Allow to cure 20-30 minutes. With 80 grit sandpaper and the Dremel Tool level and form the wood filler It will take several additions of wood filler and sanding/carving to blend the repairs together.

In the process of carving and sanding
Foot with all the rough carving and sanding completed.

After all the carving and sanding to form the foot and remove all the irregularities, the foot should have a smooth blended repair. Sand the rough finish with 120 and then 220 grit sandpaper to get s silky, smooth finish.
Apply mahogany stain to all the areas of the foot. The picture shows a small amount of stain already applied to the left side of the foot. The wood filler will not stain to the same color as the original wood. The final color match will be done with faux painting and French Polish.

Foot 1

Let the stain dry  about an hour then spray with clear lacquer. Let dry and it is ready for faux painting to finish the color match, finish and French polish.


This technique works well when only the toenail or a small portion need repair or replacement

Foot  3 -beginning

This foot is the other foot where the whole toe had fallen off. To replace the toe, coat both side with Titebond II glue replace and clamp. Clean the squeeze out glue with a damp cloth. Let dry one hour. Remove clamp and sand smooth with 220 grit sandpaper.

The three other broken toenails will be rebuilt with Minwax wood putty. Starting picture. Remove with chisel any loose pieces of wood or splinters.

Mix up the wood putty on a spreader and apply to build up the toes.
Putty has been built up and over-filled

Foot 4 - beggining
Using the Dremel tool and 80 grit sandpaper form the toes to look like the others

Foot 4

After all the carving and rough sanding  had the form and detail of the toes correct, use 120 and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth. Stain and coat with spray lacquer as above. The toes are now ready for Faux painting, finish and French Polish.

Completed Pictures

Foot 2 - Repair Complete

Foot 1 - Repair Complete

Foot 1 - Repair Complete

Foot 3 - Repair Complete
Foot 4 - Repair Complete


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