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What's up?... It's just Touch-up...

So touch-up work on furniture or well, just about anything is one of the most underrated skills that I can think of mostly because it is misunderstood. Unfortunately, anybody with a paint brush, a rag, or a magic marker can "touch-up" a defect. So, how does it look? You probably made the defect now stand out MORE than it did before you touched it. So what makes a "good" touch-up. Let's start by asking about the defect.... Why do you see it? Is the damage just in the clear (this would be a minor touch-up), does it look like clear coat AND color have been removed (more involved repair process)? Or, do you see the area as an interruption of clear, color, and obviously some surface deformation forming a crater (this will be the most challenging)? Okay, so you might get by putting a little bit of clear coat in our first example. In the second one, if shallow, you might be able to put some color in the bottom of the defect and then clear over that. Oh, now the third one.....hmmmm....you are going to have to fill the defect with a colored fill material, probably still add more color near the surface, add clear coat, and probably blend this area out into the panel.... And, well, we did not even talk about the size of the defect? Back when I was in wood pro touch-up classes the intructor would throw down a quarter on a table and say, "Gentlemen, everything this size and smaller is where you will get your best results and be your most profitable area. If you start repairing wood defects that are larger than this you will either get very good at your craft and make a good living or well, you'll be out of business." So, I'd like to think that I paid attention in those classes and was a survivor, not afraid to take a chance on my skills even with some pretty nasty damage.... Take a look at this.....



Now, don't get me wrong..... I love dogs. I have 2 German Shepherds myself. But, when a Great Dane wants to get at a cat that is behind an electronic barrier this is what they can do. That's got the features of ALL of our damage types, right? Honestly, we don't even have an even surface to work with here as the dogs nails dig at many, many, angles..... So a little later we now have this.....


So what did I do here? First, I always remove the loose debris. Dogs nails tend to "shred" wood and make it into strings. I razor blade all of that off and then start a rough grit sanding moving through a few different grades of sandpaper. Most times I wrap that paper around a hard rubber block or block of wood. This gets my suface level again. Now I am NOT sanding down to the level of the torn wood. That allows me to used a colored and heated style filler down in the wood. I can shape that filler with a heated knife or even with cutting oil on sandpaper. Once the surface "level" is put back then I can proceed with sealing, color blending, and final finish coats. So, nothing to it right? I mean, it's just touch-up. So let's pick some more simple dog damage then....this is a late 1800s 5 legged harvest table. This is typical of what puppies like to do.....


These were deep enough to take topcoats and stain down to the bare oak..... ALL the legs were like this.... And we finally got them all to look like this.....


So the key here is again a heated type of colored filler, some minor faux pencil/pore lines, and finally some low luster clear topcoats. I once did this to 145 bar stools which had scratching from cleaning mops in a sports bar. The last 6 inches of the stools were all that were compromised. The manager was looking at buying all new stools when he gave us a call. This saved him about $12000 but hey, it's just touch-up, right? So our next subject covers rings. So there are white rings, black rings, and what?, rings of missing color and finish. White rings are usually referred to as blushing from something hot or cold placed on a finished wooden surface. Back in the good ol' days moms broke out the mayonaise and slowly rubbed out these rings. That used to work because the simple lacquer coatings would open up and allow the excess moisture to both evaporate and be taken off in some minor coating removal. So current time????.... Does not work most of the time, and you ask why? Coatings are not "simple" nitrocotton based lacquers anymore. They are combined with other harder acrylic and plastic additives which are catalytically activated to harden and provide more protection. Although the surface may still white ring more aggressive chemistry is need to open the coating and remove it. So when we come into the home to remove white rings a blush remover is what we are spraying on them for removal. Now we are moving on to black rings. Black rings are very bad and indicate moisture or chemistry has gotten through to your wood and caused chemical changes. These can be permanent depending on just what got on that surface. We do have some faux finishing techniques which can block and recreate the grain textures if needed. Now, next we have, just my opinion, the worst.... the dreaded....RINGS OF MISSING COLOR AND FINISH. Seriously, if you can run your hand over a ring on a modern piece of furniture and it feels rough, it looks like the color is just plain wrong there, well, you better give us a call. No amount of touch-up on your part is going to fix this. Here take a look, her husband was afraid the diffuser might get knocked out of the wall when some guests came over.


So something of this size and penetration must be "layered" back in with several color processes.... we usually start with sanding and making sure none of that diffuser oil is going to "bleed" up on us.

Here we move into colors..... I use various camels hair artist brushes to slowly bring in the colors....

And if you've done a good job.... Happy wife and for our husband Happy life.....


Husband shook my hand as I went out the door.... I said, "It's just touch-up, right?"I thought he was going to hug me..... So you are starting to see a theme here, touch-up work is more critical because it must make the defects "disappear" or more commonly make then just not noticeable. We might shoot for invisibility but we'll accept good camoflage...

So I think we have established that there is more to touch-up work than meets the eye.


Some tips I can give you here for your touch-up woes. First, never, ever just take a touch-up marker that you bought at the local big box hardware store and use it on "raw" wood. If you do the area will immediately go too dark and make it near impossible for a professional like myself to get this mostly dye base color out of our way for proper touch-up. If you just feel that you just have to do this take an artist brush and at least seal the raw wood with some clear shellac first. The shellac will both keep the color from going dark and keep the dyes up out of the wood. Second, a phrase you hear a lot in automotive and furniture repair circles is, "Oh, that'll just buff out." It might work on some automotive coatings as they are tougher to begin with but most furniture scratches are deeper. The rule here is if you only see that the clear is scratched, then yes, vigorous hand buffing can heel over the edges of the scratch making it mostly go away. And please, do not try to learn how to use a machine buffer on your furniture!!! It takes years to learn how to use a buffer on furniture without further damaging the surfaces. And obviously, if your scratch is standing out because of missing color and clear no amount of hand buffing is going to get rid of it. Some things to not put on your furniture..... If something is too hot to hold it is too hot for your furniture tops. Most coatings can start distorting or blushing at just over 140 degrees F. Same goes for cold....if it pains your hand to hold something cold it is going to damage the coating. And we already have seen what those wall diffuser oils can do to a top. If you pull one out of the wall keep it upright and put it in a plate or bowl. Watch out for putting even simple cleaning bottles as most of the chemicals in those can easily eat through a coating if the liquid has puddled around the bottle bottom.

And the best advice I can give you about damage that needs touch-up?..... DON'T TOUCH IT! Go in our chat area on here and talk to us about it and clip a few pic.s. What you are seeing may look a lot worse that the reality of what is wrong and can be professionally corrected.




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