Dents and Scratches in Oil Finish

(If you wish to read how we create our handrubbed oil finish, click the link.

Items needed for the repair:

  • 320, 400, 600, and 1000 grit sandpaper
  • Superfine pad or nylon “steel wool”
  • Oil finish: Our mix, Fornsby’s Tung Oil Finish, Minwax Antique Oil, or similar
  • Wiping cloth: old tee shirt or similar cotton cloth

We can send a repair kit with the above items and these instructions for $50 or you can round them up.

Please contact us for more serious and deep damage.

Work with good ventilation. Drying time is critical. 24 hours is adequate at 70 degrees and 50% relative humidity. Wait 48 hours or more if cooler and damper.

1. To remove or reduce a dent or scratch, first drive steam into the wood fibers with a clothes iron to swell them back into their original position. Wet a washcloth. Wring it out to the point where it is almost ready to drip but doesn't. Hold a two-layer section of the cloth over the dent. Concentrate the heat over the depression, usually with an area of the iron near the point, and press until the section of cloth over the dent and under the iron is almost dry. Repeat with another section of damp cloth. It may take half a dozen applications of steam to bring the fibers back to, or very close to, the original level. More than six or eight tries seldom gain anything.

2. Sand lightly with the finest grit you think will adequately restore the surface. The coarser the sanding paper, the more difficult it is to restore the sheen. It is often better to leave signs of scratches than fully sand them out, for restoring the sheen and maintaining the shape becomes quite difficult if you remove much wood. When you oil, any remaining scratch will be less noticeable. 400 grit is a good general starting place. Use 320 only if 400 fails. Sand with successively finer grits up to 1000. Don’t concentrate on the scratches or dents. Sand a larger place, blending and maintaining the shape and profile. Expand the sanded area with each finer grit.

3. Put finish on a 3x3" piece of cloth and rub the sanded area and some distance beyond—try to work up to some sculptural break in the profile or feather the edge. Lightly wet sand with the 1000. Keep the area wet with the finish for ten minutes or so. Periodically during this 10 minutes, rub the area with the cloth adding finish as necessary to keep the area wet. The object at this point is to satisfy the porosity of the sanded area. Wipe off all excess with a dry cloth or paper towel. Do not leave any finish on the surface.

4. After 48 hours or more buff with the Superfine pad and repeat the oiling. Two oilings may restore the sheen; repeat if not. Be sure to guard against and wipe immediately any oil that drips or splashes out of bounds.

*Oily cloth or paper may spontaneously combust. Hang or spread the cloth, pad, or paper outside to dry until crusty before disposal.

5. This procedure should make the scratches much less noticeable, but maybe not invisible. Sanding with paper coarser than 400 can remove deeper scratches, but restoring the sheen and even texture is more work.

Call or email if you have questions.

  • 512-847-3187