Fixing Tear Out with Finish
By Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher
Imagine you're working on a project and you're running your lumber through the planer one last time to make it just the right thickness. You're
getting excited because you can finally get this project going.
You look through your pieces and start to notice there is some
tear out that you didn't catch on the final pass, and all has been
planed to the correct thickness, so there is no more room to plane
again. What to do?
I had to figure out a way to make this problem as unnoticeable
as possible. Since I had no more wood, sanding it out was out of the
question; that would look even worse. Wood putty would look bad, not to mention having to faux the grain back in on the filler.
After much thought and several cups of coffee I decided to try mixing
just a little saw dust from the wood with some hide glue. In the
first few strokes I soon realized that the wood dust wasn't a good
idea, and switched to just glue. I brushed in the glue several times
over a couple of days, letting it dry overnight. Once the glue was
proud of the surface, I sanded it smooth to the level of the surrounding
After I applied the first coat of lacquer sealer I was very happy to see
that the tear out was much less noticeable. I then applied pour filler
to the rest of the surface in order to create a polished mirror finish as
the end result. After the finish was completed and polished, the tear out
imperfections were virtually unnoticeable.
As for finishes where the grain is not going to be filled, the grain pattern can be "pressed" into the glue
while it is still just a little soft. I've used needles, straight pins, chisels,
pocket knives, etc. to mimic pores. A little practice here goes a long way!
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