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Filling ~UPD~ Cracks In Wood With Wax

Task: Wood fillers typically handle one or more specific tasks. Some are suitable for filling voids such as divots, holes, or gouges in all wood species. Others are for filling pores in open-grain woods with large pores visible to the naked eye, such as oak or elm, to smooth their naturally coarse texture. (As the filler inundates the pores, it levels any unevenness to achieve a finish particularly desirable on furniture.) The most versatile fillers can fill either voids or pores.

filling cracks in wood with wax

Packaging: Wood fillers are packaged in tubs, squeeze tubes, and sticks. Those in tubs are either no-mix and can be applied with a putty knife or spreader, while two-part fillers must be mixed before application. For tube fillers, you need only squeeze out a scant amount to fill voids or pores, while with stick fillers, simply rip off a small chunk and apply by hand. Tubs, which hold the most product, tend to be most economical and are suited to larger projects, while sticks are the least cost-effective and best used to repair scratches and cracks.

We got pretty scientific with this wood filler comparison. First, we found one piece of pine that was large enough to divide into separate sections for the different wood fillers. Then, each section was divided into four segments, each with its own test:

Once each section was properly damaged, we set forth with the wood fillers to fill them in. When they were dry, we sanded the fillers to see how well they cured the damage. The result gave us all the information necessary to suggest the best wood fillers based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Even with all that background on the best wood fillers, you might have a few additional questions spinning around. This section aims to fill you in on the most frequently asked questions about the best wood fillers. Be sure to check for an answer to your question listed below.

If neither polishing nor alcohol treatment removes the white spots, the damaged finish must be treated with abrasives. Gentle abrasives can be purchased from a home-supply store. To make your own gentle abrasive, mix cigarette ashes to a paste with a few drops of vegetable oil, light mineral oil, or linseed oil. Rub the ash-oil paste over the stained area, along the grain of the wood, and then wipe the surface clean with a soft cloth. If necessary, repeat the procedure. Stubborn spots may require several applications. Then wax and polish the entire surface.

If rubbing with ashes is not effective, go over the stained area with a mixture of rottenstone and linseed oil. Mix the rottenstone and oil to a thin paste, and rub the paste gently over the stain, along the grain of the wood. Rottenstone is a fast-cutting abrasive, so rub very carefully. Check the surface frequently to make sure you aren't cutting too deep. As soon as the white spots disappear, stop rubbing and wipe the wood clean with a soft cloth. Then apply two coats of hard furniture wax and buff the wood to a shine.

Blushing: Blushing, a white haze over a large surface or an entire piece of furniture, is a common problem with old shellac and lacquer finishes. The discoloration is caused by moisture, and it can sometimes be removed the same way white spots are removed. Buff the surface lightly and evenly with No. 0000 steel wool dipped in linseed oil. Work with the grain of the wood, rubbing evenly on the entire surface, until the white haze disappears. Then wipe the wood clean with a soft cloth, apply two coats of hard furniture wax, and buff the surface to a shine.

Black spots: Black spots are caused by water that has penetrated the finish completely and entered the wood. They cannot be removed without damage to the finish. If the spots are on a clearly defined surface, you may be able to remove the finish from this surface only; otherwise, the entire piece of furniture will have to be stripped. When the finish has been removed, bleach the entire stained surface with a solution of oxalic acid. Then refinish as necessary.

Ink stains: Ink stains that have penetrated the finish, like black water spots, cannot be removed without re-finishing. Less serious ink stains can sometimes be removed. Lightly buff the stained area with a cloth moistened with mineral spirits; then rinse the wood with clean water on a soft cloth. Dry the surface thoroughly, and then wax and polish it.

If this does not remove the ink, lightly rub the stained area, along the grain of the wood, with No. 0000 steel wool moistened with mineral spirits. Then wipe the surface clean and wax and polish it. This treatment may damage the finish. If necessary, refinish the damaged spot as discussed below. If the area is badly damaged, the entire surface or piece of furniture will have to be refinished.

Grease, tar, paint, crayon, and lipstick spots: These spots usually affect only the surface of the finish. To remove wet paint, use the appropriate solvent on a soft cloth -- mineral spirits for oil-base paint, water for latex paint. To remove dry paint or other materials, very carefully lift the surface residue with the edge of a putty knife. Do not scrape the wood, or you'll scratch the finish. When the surface material has been removed, buff the area very lightly along the grain of the wood with No. 0000 steel wool moistened with mineral spirits. Then wax and polish the entire surface.

Where many shallow scratches are present, apply hard paste wax to the surface with No. 0000 steel wool, stroking very lightly along the grain of the wood. Then buff the surface with a soft cloth. For shallow scratches on an otherwise sound shellac or lacquer finish, reamalgamation can be used to restore the finish.

in several wood colors, are available at hardware and sometimes grocery stores. Choose a stick to match the finish. To use the wax stick, run it firmly along the scratch, applying enough pressure to fill the scratch with wax. Remove any excess wax with the edge of a credit card or other thin plastic card. Let the wax dry; then buff with a soft cloth.

Badly scratched surfaces should usually be re-finished, but to hide one or two very deep scratches, you may be able to stain the raw area to match. Apply oil-based stain with an artists' brush, drawing it carefully along the scratch; let it stand for 15 minutes and wipe it off. If necessary, repeat this procedure until the scratch matches the rest of the wood.

Dings are tiny chips in the finish, usually caused by a sharp blow. The wood may not be affected. To repair a ding, use a sharp craft knife to remove any loose finish in or around the ding. Work carefully, scraping the damaged spot with the flat, sharp edge of the knife blade; do not scratch the spot. Then very carefully feather the edges of the ding with No. 0000 steel wool.

Small, shallow dents in pine and other soft woods are usually easy to remove; large and deep dents, especially in hard wood, are harder to repair. Dents are easiest to remove from bare wood. Very large, shallow dents are probably best left untreated. Very deep dents should be filled, as detailed below for cracks and gouges.

For deep dents that can't be raised with water, heat, or wood sweller, use a fine straight pin or needle to drive a series of holes in the dent. Pound the straight pin in about 1/4 inch, and carefully pull it out with pliers; the holes should be as small as possible. Then treat the dent you would for a shallow dent. The pinholes let the water penetrate the wood's surface. If you're careful, the holes won't show when the wood has been raised.

After the dent has been raised, let the wood dry for about a week, and then refinish the damaged area as above. Let the finish dry completely. Lightly buff the new finish with No. 0000 steel wool, and then wax and polish the entire surface.

Cracks and gouges should be filled so that they're level with the surface of the wood. For very small holes, like staple holes, wood-tone putty sticks can be used. If you can't match the wood, several colors can be mixed together. To use a putty stick, wipe it across the hole and smooth the surface with your finger. If you plan to finish or refinish the wood, let the putty dry for at least a week before proceeding further.

For larger holes, wood filler and water putty are the easiest fillers. These fillers can be used on bare or finished wood. Wood filler is available in several colors, and water putty can be tinted with oil or water stain. However, wood filler and water putty patches are usually noticeable, and may look darker than the wood. For the best results, test the patch on an inconspicuous surface to make sure the color is right.

To use wood filler, carefully clean the crack or gouge with the tip of a craft knife, and then press the plastic firmly in with the tip of a craft knife or the edge of a putty knife. Wood filler shrinks slightly as it dries, so press it in tightly and leave it mounded slightly above the surface of the wood.

Water putty dries flint-hard, usually harder than the wood being patched. It's best used on bare wood. Water putty can be toned with oil and water stains, but you'll have to experiment to come up with a perfect match. To use water putty, mix the powder with water to the consistency of putty; then trowel it into the break with a putty knife, leaving the patch slightly high. Let the patch dry completely, and sand and steel-wool the area smooth and level with the surrounding surface. Finish the surface as above, or finish the entire piece of furniture.

For the most professional patching job, use shellac sticks to fill cracks and gouges. Shellac sticks leave the least conspicuous patch, and are very effective on finished wood that's in good condition. Shellac sticks are available in several wood-tone colors; use a stick that matches the finish as closely as possible. Practice on scrap wood before working on a piece of furniture.

If a hole or split is very large, don't overlook the possibility of filling it with a piece of wood cut and trimmed to fit perfectly. If the patching wood can be taken from the piece of furniture in a spot that won't show, the repair may be almost impossible to detect.


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