Thursday, June 29, 2017

Refinishing an Heirloom Part 2 - Filling Holes, Dings, Gouges, and Scratches

This radio table my daughter got from my mothers estate had two really deep holes in the top. I don't know what made the holes but they needed to be filled before she could stain the table.

I have rarely found any older piece of furniture without some wear and tear. Most have some issue with veneer or a few deep scratches.

This table is no exception. There were a few chips on the edges, the veneer glue down I shared on yesterdays post, and those two deep holes.

Years ago I had a friend who worked on furniture and he showed me to mix my stain in wood putty to fill holes on wood pieces that you are planning on staining.

If you are painting the item, it doesn't matter what color the wood filler is as it won't be seen but when you are staining a piece, you don't want the filler to be a different color than the finished project.

Now, they have stainable wood filler but I kinda liked the old stuff better as this filler almost feels like a sandy grout. I have a large container of it now so I am stuck with it and you wouldn't know that until you try it but it is the MINWAX stainable. The Elmers one was a bit more like the others I am used to using.

I usually take a small medicine cup size container and scoop some of the wood filler into it. I then put a few drops of the wood stain color I have chosen to use. I mix it until the wood putty is the stain color. Don't add too much of the stain or it will water down the wood filler but just add a few drops at a time until it gets to the stain color.

Since we didn't strip the entire table, I was able to hold the filler to the stain that was still on the table to make sure it was dark enough to fill the holes.

I then get a spatula and use it to put the putty in the holes and scratches. You can kinda push the putty down in with your fingers if needed. On very thin gaps, I used my finger to push the putty in and slide my finger down the gap until it is full and smooth.

On deeper holes like the ones on this table, I should have put it on, let it dry and then applied another coat as if you put too much in, it doesn't dry quickly and shrinks or sometimes bubbles up some.

If you are going to try a second coat, sand it a little and then put in a bit more filler and let it dry. Allow a few hours for the filler / putty to dry. Don't use oil based fillers. They just don's mix well and don't take the stain as well.

Once you have allowed the putty to dry, you need to sand it. If the putty isn't dry, it will all fall out of the hole or you will pull out the wet part. If you sand it and it is wet, chucks come out. Make sure it is dry before sanding.

I use fine grit sand paper of 150 or higher as the more coarse paper can cause lines in the filler. Don't use power sanders on areas that have shallow fill or it may go right through the putty. Go gentle on edges as well as the filler can pop out due to not being supported well. Once you stain and varnish it, the putty gets sealed in and is stronger.

Sand the entire surface always going WITH the grain as going against can leave scratches that may not be able to be sanded out leaving marks on the finished project. It can also make the finish rough.

Once it is sanded smooth, use a lightly damp cloth or paper towel and wipe away any dust from sanding. You need a super clean surface to stain. 

Stain the project (I will cover that tomorrow) and don't allow pooling of the stain over the putty as you don't want the putty to absorb more stain than the wood or you will have a dark spot forever.

As you can see the holes look better. I should have drawn or painted on some "grain" lines with a paint over the larger holes which you can do if you need to fill larger areas. Follow the grain around the hole and just connect the grain lines. You can use the stain to paint the grain lines in and just let it sit and dry longer and then stain the rest over the darker lines wiping away the stain quickly so it doesn't stain the rest as dark as the grain lines. The early pioneers used to use feathers to draw "grain" lines on pine furniture to make it look like oak, it is a talent for sure.

You can see that the table top came out great and the holes and scratches aren't extremely noticeable. I will show how to stain and varnish it tomorrow hopefully. I have a super busy day so we will see if we get to it! Have a Blessed Day!

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