Few things are as disappointing as that first nasty scratch on a new piece of furniture. No matter how beautiful the piece is overall, all you see when you look at it is the scratch. Of course, it’s natural to believe that the scratch is the only thing your guests notice, too.
Short of having the whole piece refinished, what can be done about an unsightly scratch? There are three touch-up techniques used by professional furniture refinishers that can be safely adapted for home use. The supplies needed are easy to find and the techniques are easy to learn.
Invisible to the Casual Observer
The goal is to repair the scratch well enough so that it does not draw attention to itself; you want the scratch repair to go unnoticed by your guests. In the refinishing trade, such repairs are said to be “invisible to the casual observer”. That is, close inspection will reveal that a repair has been made, but the otherwise the repair goes unnoticed.
A Natural-looking Repair
The easiest way to achieve a satisfactory repair is to mimic the natural markings in the wood grain. Mineral streaks, small knots, grain and color variations, sap pockets, and flecking give each cut of wood a unique personality. By matching the color of the grain or other markings instead of the overall color of the wood stain, a more natural look can be achieved.
Acrylic Artist Paint Technique
From your local art supply or craft store, purchase several small artist brushes, a small bottle of clear flat liquid acrylic, and four tubes of acrylic artist paint: raw sienna, burnt sienna, raw umber and burnt umber. With these four colors you can match almost any wood grain.
Using a piece of cardboard or a paper plate as a palette, squeeze out a small amount of the four colors onto the palette. To mix your color, start with either umber and gradually lighten the color by mixing in one of the siennas. A few minutes of trial and error will bring you to an acceptable color. The color will darken as it dries, so make your final color slightly lighter than what you want.
When you are satisfied with the color, use the smallest artist brush to apply the color to the scratch. If you make a mistake, wipe out the color while it’s still wet and try again. Artist acrylic paint is very forgiving. When the repair dries, paint over the scratch with the liquid flat acrylic. The flat sheen will reflect less light and make the scratch less noticeable.
The Crayon Technique
Colored wax repair sticks are commonplace; they can be found in almost any paint store. The problem with these sticks is that they only come in a few colors, and it’s difficult to find one that will match wood grain. This problem can be overcome if you remember that these sticks are just wax, like a Crayola crayon. Crayons come in many more colors, and work just as well. If your scratch is very deep, a crayon is your best choice for repair.
To make this repair, you will need the appropriate color crayon, an old credit card or piece of stiff plastic, a rag, some naptha (lighter fluid) and some 0000 grade steel wool.
Rub the crayon into the scratch; the goal is to slightly overfill. Using the credit card, scrape the wax level to the surface. To remove the excess wax from around the scratch, dampen the rag with the naptha, and clean around the edges. Naptha is benign and will not harm the finish. If you push too hard with the credit card and scuff the finish, remove the scuffs by buffing lightly in the direction of the grain with the 0000 steel wool.
The Touchup Marker Technique
Touchup markers by Minwax and Guardian are available at most paint stores. These markers are similar to Magic Markers but they are filled with furniture stain rather than ink. Like Magic Markers, touchup markers have wide felt applicator tips. Usually, these tips are much wider than a scratch, and tend to make scratches more obvious rather than less obvious.
To use these markers to the best advantage, rub the marker along the length of the scratch until the color fills the scratch. Then, quickly lick your finger and rub the excess stain from around the scratch. This technique will minimize the scratch and not make a mess on your furniture.
These three techniques will enable you to make acceptable repairs to most scratches on your furniture. You will still know where the scratch is, but chances are your guests won’t.
Originally posted 2013-08-27 16:37:00.