Picture yourself nearing completion of your masterpiece, just about ready to put a finish on it, and then the unthinkable happens. You drop your tape measure on top of the table, or you get a bit too aggressive with a mallet as you are tapping pieces together during a glue-up. What do you do? Sanding may remove more material than you are willing to lose. Patching is tricky and time consuming. Ignoring it will haunt you forever.
Turn to your household clothing iron in this situation. Soak a rag with water and lay it on the affected area, still soaking wet with water. When the iron is fully heated to its highest setting (typically cotton; I haven’t seen one with a “walnut” setting yet!) work it back and forth for 30 – 60 seconds, until the rag begins to dry out a bit. The heat from the iron will force the water from the rag into the fibers of the wood, causing them to expand to their “pre-dented” shape. After ironing, sand the surface lightly with 100 grit sand paper, and the repair should be nearly invisible. It is like having an “undo command” for your woodworking shop!
This trick works well on nearly any species of wood, prior to applying a finish. It works best on dents that do not tear the wood fibers, but merely stress or distort the fibers.
Paul Mayer lives in Lakeville, MN and is a hopelessly addicted hobbyist woodworker with over 13 years experience building custom furniture and other fun projects. He also assists his father, Vernon Mayer, in his woodworking business Vern’s Wood Goods where they build serving trays, cutting boards, kitchen utensils and other fine crafts, and are now considering adding spoons to their product offering.