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How to Refinish Small Blemishes in Wood with Common Finishing Products
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Products for Finishing Restoration There are several finish restoration options that can help restore furniture without resorting to doing a full refinish.

The holidays are a great time to give your furniture a quick facelift; something well short of refinishing, but more than dusting. You’ve probably heard of, and wondered about, products that promise to eradicate minor scratches, remove white rings, take away blemishes, reverse color fading and restore sheen with just one swipe.

Are these miracle potions really safe and effective, or are they more snake oil than tung oil? Let’s look at a few to see what they will and won’t do, and talk about homespun alternatives using ingredients commonly found in woodshops. Though I was unable to find these specialty products at the hardware store or home store in my neighborhood, I was able to find them all at my local Rockler store and on

One-wipe Rejuvenation

Two very different looking products both claim to remove fine and, in some cases, even fairly deep scratches while restoring the color and sheen to worn finishes. Further, they’ll eliminate that pallid look caused by fine surface scratches or fine aging cracks. Both do a very decent job and are embarrassingly easy to use.

Tibet Almond Stick scratch remover is a tightly wound tube of cloth thoroughly impregnated with an oily, waxy substance. Rub the exposed end over scratches, rub-throughs, or finish that’s riddled with fine cracks and they instantly disappear, leaving a slightly shiny surface. Because it is uncolored, it works best on natural finishes or stained ones in which the scratches do not go through the stain.

For darker stained furniture where the scratches or rubs go through the color, choose Howard’s Restor-a-Finish. It’s a thin liquid in a can that you simply wipe on with a soft cloth, and it, too, removes scratches and whitish cracked finish immediately. Unlike the Almond Stick, which comes only in clear, Howard’s comes in a range of nine common furniture colors from natural to ebony brown, allowing you to match the finish. The can also claims it eliminates white rings, though in my tests, it did a poor job of that. There are other products that work better.

The homespun alternative to these two handy helpers is Watco Danish Oil, which, like Howard’s, comes in a wide range of colors. Many shops already have Watco on hand, and it will do the same tasks when wiped on, then off.

Removing White Rings

Liberon Ring Remover is made specifically for removing white rings. It’s also part of the Liberon Repair, Renovate, Revive kit. The kit also contains three wax crayons (for filling and coloring deep gouges), steel wool, paste wax, and a can of wax and polish remover — because it’s best to clean off any wax or polish before you have a go at white rings. The shop alternative for removing wax and polish is mineral spirits; denatured alcohol will remove white rings.

By the way, these won’t work on black rings, which are below the finish and into the wood itself. More often than not, they can only be removed during complete refinishing.

posted on December 1, 2011 by Woodworker's Journal
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2 thoughts on “How to Refinish Small Blemishes in Wood with Common Finishing Products”

  • D Alford

    I have a piece of furniture that was originally finished with Danish oil. It never fully cured and remained tacky. My daughter put a box on top of it and in trying to remove the portion of the box that stuck, some of the Danish oil finish came off. My question is, "Can I sand the top of the piece and reapply the Danish oil to the furniture? The top was the only part that was tacky in the first place.

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