Don't Get Steamed!

by Alan Noel

Very often during the process of building a new piece of furniture in my shop, I'll manage to add a few dents and dings along the way to the otherwise smooth surfaces. Fortunately, most of these minor accidents can simply be sanded out, but sometimes they are a bit too deep for sanding. Trying to sand these deeper areas out would inevitably disfigure the surface to the point that the spot would always be obvious. Or worse, if working with a veneered surface, you might entirely sand through the veneer and expose the substrate.

    Here are some tips on how to deal with some of these problems:
  1. If the dent is very shallow, a little sanding will most likely do the trick.
  2. If sanding is not possible, or the area is veneered, try wetting the surface a few times and letting it dry completely. This may raise the grain enough to allow the area to be sanded smooth.
  3. For deeper dents, using a very wet rag, place it over the dent and place a tip of a hot iron or a soldering iron onto the wet cloth. This will force steam to penetrate the surface and cause the dent to swell up.
  4. On veneered surfaces, be sure to take care and go slowly so as not to lift the veneer by steaming excessively. This can lead to a number of other problems.
  5. Be sure to always keep the rag wet and be sure to use a clean white cloth with no colors such as an old towel or wash cloth. Again, be sure to keep the cloth wet or you may end up scorching the wood.
  6. Be sure to allow the area to dry completely before doing any sanding.
  7. If for any reason you are uncomfortable with any of these methods, you may want to contact a furniture restoration specialist.
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