Simple repairs for scratches, dents and dings on wood furniture
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Apr. 19, 2012
Much of your wooden furniture gets almost constant use around the house, while other pieces spend most of the time sitting there, looking pretty. The things that are used daily take the most wear and tear, of course, but they are also not usually as precious as the furnishings in, say, a formal dining or living room. That doesn't mean the mundane has to also look weary, nor does it mean the fancy stuff is immune from dings, dents and damage.
You might be more apt to promptly treat damage to the finer furniture, but you can also apply some of the same remedies to the familiar and friendly pieces, too. In fact, taking more regular care of the day-to-day furniture will hone your skills for the more delicate pieces - and they are bound to need it some day.
Let me first say that if any of your furniture pieces are bona fide antiques or rare in any way, I advise that you turn to a professional in the field of antiques and their repair. Practice your own furniture medicine on pieces that are not quite so precious.
We have some things in our own home that came from ancestral homes, which only means that they mean something to us. Furniture experts wouldn’t classify them as precious. Still we apply our own brand of furniture doctoring, taking care to apply tried and true techniques on our personal antiques.
Even if a tabletop or the exterior surfaces of other pieces are made of veneer over a hardwood core, treat them as you would a solid wood product. But check to make certain none of the veneer needs to be repaired first before you proceed with mending the surface and finish.
Often minor blemishes on your furniture can be fixed with a few quick steps. If your piece is scratched, a simple stain marker could be the right solution. Just find the color that is closest to the stain of your furniture. Move along the length of the scratch, brushing on the coloring with the applicator tip. Then wipe off the excess using a soft cloth.
For small holes or blemishes that are deeper than the casual scratch, you can find wood putty at a woodworker's shop or at a home store. It closely resembles a crayon-like material that has a waxy feel to it. Use these touch-up sticks to rub into a pinhole or grooved scratch. The color will blend with the surface, and excess material can be buffed away.
Knocking over a heavy candlestick or dropping a piece of heavy silverware on a lacquered dining table can cause a nasty dent. But even distress marks such as these can be raised up. Lay a lightly-moistened towel over the immediate surface area, and lay on a warm laundry iron. Mind you, you are trying to create some steam that will swell the wood fibers just enough to swell the wood in the depression. So the surface should not get too wet, nor should the iron be too hot. You may need to make a few tiny holes in the finish with a pin to allow the moisture to get down to the wood. Once it looks as though the blemish is disappearing, wrap a cube of ice in plastic and use it to cool the wood and slow the process.
Mild household abrasives - toothpaste, fine ash or auto polish - are pretty good remedies for removing white rings, other surface stains and paper that has become stuck to the finish. Apply the mild abrasive using a soft cloth or 0000 steel wool along with some light household oil. Wipe the surface clean with a clean, soft cloth. If necessary, use furniture wax and buffing to restore the sheen.
A wet glass or bottle can leave an unattractive white ring on a table surface. For mild rings, dampen a cloth (don’t soak it) with some denatured alcohol and rub the area. For more serious or stubborn water rings, try lathering on a coat of petroleum jelly, and let it stay on the surface over night. Water that has gotten through the finish and stained the wood will leave a dark mark. Such a stain will not lend itself to easy removal, and it's likely you will have to strip the finish, remove the stain and refinish the wood.
These are just a few simple techniques, but they give you a feel for the possibilities and the complexity of such solutions. For more serious issues, do your own research, and see what works best. Always take appropriate precautions with the materials you use, and if you think the problem is too difficult for you to handle, turn it over to a professional for restoration.