Furniture and Wood Restoration | Retouching Tips, Tricks and Secrets

Staying Neat and Clean Return Home Gifts and Working with Whites

You're about to discover one of the most useful secrets of professional furniture finishers and refinishers. Something that's so darned useful and easy that they hate to admit to it.

What am I talking about here? Magic markers! For all the little dings, dents, and scratches that are inevitable with any piece of furniture that gets used, magic markers earn their name.

You know what I mean; those places on the legs that got whacked by the vacuum cleaner or gnawed by the puppy. Or on the top where somebody tossed their keys. Especially when they show through with a light, raw wood color, things can start to get a little shabby looking.

Worse looking yet, how about when there is a single defect in an otherwise perfect finish? Markers to the rescue! Actually, I think Magic Markers is a tradename, but it's used as a description for the whole lot of them, like Band-Aid is for, -well, band-aids.

Anyhow, you probably already have a black one laying around, and even the grocery store usually has them in brown, which is the other most useful color. But if you find yourself in an artist or craft supply store, you can get them individually or in sets of a wide range of colors. It's mostly the browns, the wood tones that are useful. A collection of them in light golden-brown, a reddish-brown, a medium brown and a dark brown (along with black) will allow you to finagle in a close-enough-to-disappear repair on most natural wood finishes.

I also keep a set of basic colors around. When added with the colors above, painted finishes can also have their problems disguised. For repairs that are lighter colored than your markers, wipe the scratch with your finger immediately after you've applied the darker marker. You can then re-apply a second "coat" if it's too light. For repair colors that don't conveniently match any of the markers you have on hand, try applying the marker that comes closest, wiping some of it off with your finger, and then dabbing in a second color that tints it in the right direction. It takes longer to describe doing it than to figure it out in real life. Besides, it usually only has to be close to disappear; that's why the black marker is handier than you might otherwise guess.

Some marker brands come with a fine tip at one end and a broader shape at the other, -these are especially handy. The only drawback to the ease and beauty of this approach may be that you won't know where to quit. Kind of like pulling out the Dustbuster for a quick little pick up, -where do you stop?

I once paid a housecall to a client who had asked me if I could stop by and touch up a couple of dings in the bases of some columns that I had marbled a few years earlier. When she saw how quickly and easily they were fixed, she asked me if I might make a trip into the dining room for the table legs, and, -oh, what about the music room...?

This home could properly be called a mansion, and it was filled with furniture! I handed her my little clutch of markers and mumbled something about being expected elsewhere...

Brown shoe polish is also useful for repairing problems on clear wood finishes. It can actually fill in scratches that aren't too deep or wide. Separately, brown and/or black shoe polish (this is the colored wax in tins that we're talking about here) can be used on wood instead of clear wax when you are looking for a slight "antique" effect. This is most useful if your piece has small details or carvings or hardware to catch the wax and hold some of it as you buff off the excess.

- Dave


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