Repairing damage to wood furniture: 9 clever tips

September 3, 2015

Repairing dents, dings and spot damage in wood furniture is a straightforward DIY job. But it's not always obvious how to go about it. Keep these nine clever tips in mind to make things clearer.

  1. Dents in wood can often be raised with steam, which swells the compressed fibres back to their normal size. Prick the dented area with a pin repeatedly then cover with a wet towel. Now give the dent several shots of steam from a hot iron, being careful not to scorch the wood.
  2. Oxalic acid is often used to bleach ink stains out of furniture, but it is a severe remedy and can be dangerous. On bare wood, try the gentler solution of rubbing salt and lemon juice over the stain. On a finished surface, inkblots are best ignored, especially if the piece of furniture is an old desk or bureau.
  3. To treat a surface burn, scrape out the charred wood with a trimming knife or chisel, fill the resulting depression with clear nail polish and then refinish as necessary. If the surface is just scorched, rub with a paste made of fine fireplace ash and lemon juice, then wipe clean and touch up with the appropriate finish.
  4. Mask around a burn with tape, then use a knife with a rounded blade to dig out the damaged wood. If necessary, stain the exposed wood to match the tone of the surface wood. For the filler, mix equal parts of clear nail polish and acetone-based nail polish remover and apply one thin coat at a time until you fill the hole that you dug out. Make sure each coat of your mixture is thoroughly dry before applying the next. Sand the surface with extra-fine abrasive paper, then remove the masking tape to complete the job.
  5. Treat worn areas on chair arms and table edges with a wood marker – a felt-tip pen product available from hardware stores that seals and refinishes the surface. Wipe the area with turpentine, sand with superfine-grade sandpaper, then colour it in using an appropriately coloured marker. Rub gently with a finger to blur the edges of the spot repair. Repeat several times to build up the new finish.
  6. Use cigarette ash, which is a gentle abrasive, to remove watermarks from a finished surface.
  7. You can easily remove the stickers and decals often used to decorate children's furniture when they're no longer wanted. Just soak them in vinegar, then peel them off cleanly.
  8. To treat a large area of water damage, smear on a generous coat of petroleum jelly and leave to stand overnight. In the morning, wipe it clean to reveal a rejuvenated finish.
  9. Don't wipe up nail polish spills! Nail polishes contain solvents that can soften a finish, so wiping up a spill could mean wiping up a finish, too. Instead, let it dry, then scrape it off with a credit card. Touch up as necessary.

Keep these nine clever tips in mind when you're repairing damage to wood furniture, and you'll be able to tackle the job with ease.

Repairing damage to wood furniture: 9 clever tips
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