Frequently Asked Questions
The Wood Works has been in business since 1979. Over the years, we've probably heard it all. That's not to say we wouldn't welcome a challenging new question that pertains to your unique concern. But we're fairly certain that many common problems and proposed solutions can be found here in our Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.
Feel free to browse our most-common questions about furniture repair, refinishing, and restoration. And, if you have any fascinating new issue or concern, please give us a call or shoot us an e-mail. We'd love to hear from you!
Would we, do we, could we, what about, how much? All topics addressed throughout this site.
For an ink stain on furniture (from an ink pen on an oil finish), any solvent used will likely cause the ink to bleed into the wood grain making it even worse.
- Contact manufacturer of pen and ask for advice.
- Get an ink eraser from an office supply store and try erasing the mark.
- Carefully and slowly try household bleach, using a Q-tip. Start by testing one small spot. If the color of the ink stain changes (blue starts to turn green then yellow), it's working. But the color and gloss level of the finish will probably have to be rebuilt afterwards.
- Last resort is careful sanding, realizing any veneer is probably very thin. Finish work would again be required. If finish is a surface finish like lacquer, then solvent cleaners like lighter fluid and naphtha could probably be tried with more success.
Sometimes you can use Chlorine Bleach. Chlorine will usually remove some stains, particularly dye stains that Oxalic Acid won't. But chlorine won't penetrate very deeply, so if you do much sanding you may sand down to the stain again. Oxalic Acid will usually remove water, alkali and rust stains. Two-Part Wood Bleach will also remove these stains but it also removes the natural color from the wood. Both Oxalic Acid and Two-Part Wood Bleach should be available at most paint stores. The drawback with all these products is that they have to be applied to the entire surface. You can end up with a table, for instance, that has nice brown walnut legs and skirts but a VERY light top. You must also be very careful to remove or rinse off any residue or there could be adverse reactions to any stain or finish you apply. Be sure to follow directions accurately and fully, both to protect the furniture piece and yourself. It is usually a good idea to do a test on a very small area (an out of the way spot or even on some scrap wood) just to get the feel of the product and see how much color gets removed.
Not really. There are a lot of questions to be asked here. Typically this question is related to some wood that has been in the family for some time. If it's from an old tree, has it been rough milled into slabs? It is unlikely the wood has been properly stacked to air dry. Where was it stacked and stored? Has it collected layers of dirt, grit, bird droppings, etc? Such wood is not usable until both sides are surface planed smooth. It is usually in random widths with no straight edge to make it readily workable. Such wood can have nails, staples, barbed wire, and gunshot imbedded in it. Air-dried wood, if correctly stacked, can take upwards of 10 years to properly dry. Surface grit and grime will instantly dull any planer or joiner used on it. Any wood product with embedded metal is highly dangerous to work with on machines. Pieces of metal can become like bullets if nicked by saw blades. Air-dried lumber, even if usable, tends to develop shrinkage cracks later in the finished item. Such wood tends to have wide color and darkness variations, creating finishing nightmares. If you have some old wood that you would like to recycle, check with a local woodcarvers club. They might have some use for it.
Traditionally a stain is applied directly to the wood. Then a clear protective finish is applied on top of that. In a toned finish there is no stain applied directly to the wood. The color pigments are dissolved in the finish and applied with it. If any finish flakes or chips off, the color goes with it. Also this type of finish is less transparent because of the pigments, so the true beauty of the wood grain tends to be dimmed or muddied.
SEE FINISHING TERMS
Yes, we do. We will create custom furniture, made-to-order bookcases, and individually-designed wood pieces, handmade by our craftsmen, just for you. Quotes on these custom items will be given based on your specifications and sketches. However, you can use the following guideline to get a ballpark idea of the costs involved. Find a mass-produced, factory-made piece comparable in design and quality (wood, not particle board and paper laminates). The cost of a custom piece will likely be about ten times that.
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Water damaged furniture is always a disappointment. But there are ways to correct the problem. The first step is to clean the furniture item with a disinfectant cleaner to prevent mold and mildew from starting. Any anti-bacterial soap, such as anti-bacterial dish or hand soap, will do fine. Clean the item while it's still wet to avoid re-dampening it later. Then get the item thoroughly dried out as soon as possible. Force dry with fans on it and let them blow for 3 to 4 days. Get items up off of any damp surfaces. Turn chairs upside down on top of tables; put out in the sunlight while weather permits. It can take up to thirty days for the full effects to be seen. The most common damage is to leg tips which are often a toned finish that will flake and lift from water damage. Also, glue seams tend to split or seep glue.
Butcher block care instructions: Assuming your block has a finish on it, clean it like you would any wood surface, not allowing water to remain on the block for any length of time. If this is a butcher block or a cutting block that your family uses for food preparation ALWAYS clean and treat the surfaces with food-safe cleaners and preservatives. DO NOT put it in a dishwasher! To help preserve your block if used as a cutting surface it would be advisable to periodically reseal ONLY the area in which you have cut. Mineral oil or vegetable oil can be used. If your block becomes necessary to refinish due to usage, we suggest sanding the finish off and applying either an oil finish as mentioned above.
SEE OILY WOODS
There are many levels of touch up that can be used on any specific blemish. When the gloss level is low, the problem is simply in the finish. If there is no indentation, gouge or void in the actual surface, the least expensive solution is to color the area with a special marker, so that the damage doesn't jump out at you. These markers are usually available in Home Centers in light, medium and dark for the Do-It-Yourselfer fix-it solution. At The Wood Works, we have hundreds of colors and lots of experience in repairing damaged finish. This enables us to do a much-more accurate color match and blending job. This kind of "touch up" can be quite satisfactory in those situations. Minor nicks and dings can sometimes be filled with a colored wax stick. The next level of touch up is called a burn-in, where a solid stick of colored lacquer is melted into the damaged area. It then has to be smoothed out and the whole surface rubbed out. This approach addresses surface level, color and gloss. The repaired area is much less noticeable, but can still be seen from certain angles. The next, more expensive approach, usually used in areas of where chunks are missing, is to fill the area with epoxy putty. The area then has to be sanded, opening a larger wound in the finish. This area then has to be colored, blending into the surrounding areas. A finish (gloss level) then has to be applied. Lastly, if the wound is large, or in a location where filler would not adhere well or be strong enough, a new piece of wood would be spliced in. Sanding, color blending and finish would be required. Obviously, when anything but the color-only approach is used, it doesn't take a great number of individual blemishes requiring touch up before the costs start approaching that of stripping and refinishing. Stripping and refinishing is the most comprehensive, effective, and expensive blemish correction solution. The rule of thumb usually sought in cases of touch up is that the repair will not be noticeable to the casual observer. Anyone who knows it is there will be able to find it if they look for it.
SEE FINISH REPAIR
If your item is a true antique of high value and in good condition, "a museum-quality piece" as we would say, refinishing it would likely decrease its value. However, 99% of what we see does not fit that category. Most of what we see are not "true antiques" but simply old furniture. Most of it is post-industrial, twentieth-century, factory-produced and not hand-made, hand-crafted items. Most of what we see has no special value in that it was neither designed nor made nor used by someone of historic significance. We recognize that it might be precious to you though, because it is your family's heirloom. However, even an old garage sale item can have value in that it is undoubtedly much better made and more durable than today's particle board and paper-laminate disposable furniture. Old furniture, properly protected and cared for should last at least another lifetime. But, realistically it has no value other than its usefulness, comparable replacement cost or sentimental value. Most pertinent though, the furniture we see is usually not in "good condition." It ranges from fair, to endangered, to unusable. Old finishes DO DIE. Not only can they become black and opaque, hiding the beauty and character of the item. They can fade, blister, peel, prune, and otherwise deteriorate to the point where they no longer serve their primary function of protecting the wood. Moisture starts splitting the grain. Old glue dries out and gives up. Veneer starts lifting or splitting, joints loosen and break. Lumber warps and splits. All these problems can be dealt with effectively if addressed soon enough. However, as much as we hate to write off a piece, we have seen furniture neglected so long, that it is simply not salvageable.
SEE ANTIQUE ROADSHOW
Because of environmental and OSHA regulations we do not do stripping and refinishing in the home. The best choice for items that cannot be brought to the shop is to use a painter who handles interiors, wood staining, and finishing.
Acids can do this. The acid can come from perspiration and body oils. Some cleaners can do this. Be cautious of using any alkali or ammonia cleaner, like many window cleaners. Plastic tablecloths and plastic placemats can also be a culprit. These items contain softening agents that prevent the plastic from cracking. These softening agents can migrate to the finish if left on the surface for extended periods of time.
SEE MAINTAIN FINISH
Water gets under the finish and creates microscopic voids between the wood and finish. This traps light and creates a white or milky appearance. First try a thorough cleaning of the item. The problem may be in the wax coat, not finish. If that doesn't help:
- Wipe on lemon oil or petroleum jelly, and let sit overnight. It may fill voids and improve the look but not eliminate problem entirely.
- Wipe gently with cloth slightly dampened with denatured alcohol. Start with quick light strokes. Go slower and use more alcohol and pressure until it works.
- Heat area carefully with blow dryer to warm finish and re-fuse to the wood. CAUTION: BE VERY CAREFUL. Too little heat does nothing, and too much heat will blister the finish.
- Use four aught "0000" steel wool with an oily lubricant (lemon oil will do) and wipe gently.
- ONLY IF IT'S LACQUER: spray a fine mist of lacquer retarder on area. This will soften the finish and allow it to fuse back together. If the finish is not lacquer THIS CAN CAUSE BLISTERING.
In our shop we can sometimes apply other procedures that might help. If nothing else works then stripping and refinishing is required.
SEE FINISH PORTFOLIO
No, we do not.
Polyurethane is currently a popular finish because it's brushable for Do-It-Yourselfers. It's supposed to be waterproof and super hard. Problems are: it's thick, frequently showing brush marks, it turns yellow with age, it's brittle so it flakes, scratches and chips easily, and it is not repairable. It is rigid so it does not flex with the wood underneath which is always expanding and contracting. This can allow moisture underneath, creating white areas and finish lifting. It is very difficult to ever strip again if it does deteriorate. We do not recommend it. We use acrylic lacquer. It is a finish that must be sprayed and is widely used by manufacturers and refinishers. It is water-clear and never changes color. It is repairable. With the acrylic additive that we use, it is flexible, naturally expanding and contracting as the wood does. Its finish is moisture, alcohol, chip and scratch resistant. Gloss levels are Flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss and Gloss.
SEE POLY VS LAQUER
There is a product by DEFT called "Clear Wood Finish." It is the only brushable lacquer that we are aware of. It is what we recommend to the Do-It-Yourselfer. The secret is to use a very good brush and apply thin coats. We use at least three coats. BE FOREWARNED: It smells terrible while curing.
SEE DIY REFINISHING
We do not dip. That can be potentially harmful to fine furniture, attacking the wood and glue. We use what is essentially a commercial version of a hand-stripping process, called the overflow method. Because of environmental and OSHA regulations we only strip in batches when we have a full day's worth of items to process. That usually means we strip every 2 to 3 weeks.
With painted items, you can't absolutely know if they will be suitable for staining until after they are stripped, due to the fact that here may be blemishes or stains in the wood. If it was originally painted by the manufacturer, there may actually be different species of woods in the piece. The wood may be an inferior grade. Also, it may be impossible to get the paint off thoroughly enough to make staining suitable. If the surface was well-prepared it may not come out of the grain. If the paint was applied on top of an old finish, it may come off easily. We typically recommend a minimal strip attempt to start. We can then usually tell if it is worth continuing. If questions arise, we will call the customer and have them come in and review the piece before continuing.
Yes we can. It is just amazing what damage a pet can cause in just one evening, night, or day left alone with nothing else to chew. Or cat to spray rather than use its kitty litter. Or even a Macaw that got out of its cage during a work day (the worst we have ever seen).
SEE PET DAMAGE
Milky white water marks are caused by water penetrating the finish and changing its transparency. Fortunately, these blemishes are always in the finish itself. The water causes minuscule fractures that prevent you from seeing through. It is much like solid ice that is transparent in relation to cracked ice that has voids and is opaque.
SEE WATER MARKS
Hardwood lumber cupping, twisting, and warping is problematic for most all types of wood and furniture. If boards are severely warped or are veneered, do not attempt to remove the warp yourself. More often than not, the finish will have to be removed before trying to straighten any "slightly warped" boards. If at all doable, this is a job best left to a professional. The Wood Works will be glad to help!
SEE WOOD WARPAGE
They certainly can. You must first decide whether the item is worth saving. The value is not what you can buy a replacement for or what it might cost to restore, but whether the item has an intrinsic keepsake value for you. It might be your favorite item, an interesting antique, or your grandmother's rocker. In almost any case, somehow it can be saved.
Epoxy Molds can be used to duplicate special trim and decorative pieces that are impractical to duplicate in wood.
SEE EPOXY MOLDS
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