By the time your piece of furniture is ready for finishing, odds are good that it will have picked up some dents and gouges along the way. A dent is a depression in which the wood fibers were crushed, but not torn or cut, while a gouge has fibers cut or wood missing. We will deal with gouges later. You can usually steam dents out, and now is the time to remove them.
Start with a wet cotton cloth and a hot iron, preferably one no longer being used for clothing. Using an eyedropper, a small artist’s brush or even a toothpick, fill the dent with a drop or two of water. Add more water if it soaks in immediately to ensure that the depression is filled with water. Place the wet rag over the water-filled dent, and press the iron onto it. The wet cloth will prevent the iron from scorching the surrounding wood. Leave the iron on only a few seconds until the cloth is dry beneath it. You may have to repeat the whole process, but usually one or two pressings with the iron should bring the dent up to level.