Restore the Color with Gel Stain
It’s amazing what a coat of gel stain can do to restore a tired-looking piece of furniture. The cool part is that you don’t need to strip the old finish for this to work. Kevin demonstrated the tip on this round oak table. The finish was worn and faded. He loaded a soft cloth with dark gel stain and worked it into the surface. Then he wiped if off with a clean cloth. It was a surprising transformation. Of course, gel stain won’t eliminate dark water stains or cover bad defects, but it will hide fine scratches and color in areas where the finish has worn away.
There are other products, but Kevin prefers gel stain because he finds it easier to control the color and leave a thicker coat if necessary. Also, since it doesn’t soak in quite as readily as thinner stains, gel stain is somewhat reversible. Before it dries, you can remove it with mineral spirits if you don’t like the results. Gel stains offer some protection, but for a more durable finish or to even out the sheen, let the stain dry overnight and then apply a coat of wipe-on finish as shown below.
Fill Small Cracks
If you find nail holes or tiny cracks after applying the final finish, fill them with colored wax fill sticks, wax repair sticks or fill pencils, found at home centers and paint stores.
The directions tell you to rub the stick over the defect. But Kevin recommends breaking off a chunk and warming it up in your hands. Then shape it to fit the flaw and press it in with a smooth tool. He uses a 3/8-in. dowel with an angle on the end. For cracks, make a thin wafer, slide it into the crack and then work the wax in both directions to fill the crack. Buff with a soft cloth.
Get Rid of Dents
You can often get rid of small dents by wetting them. The moisture swells the crushed wood fibers back to their original shape. (You can’t fix cuts or gouges this way, though.)
Moisture must penetrate the wood for this to work. Finishes prevent water from penetrating, so Kevin suggests making a bunch of tiny slits with a razor blade to allow the water to penetrate. Use the corner of the blade, and keep the blade parallel to the grain direction. Next, fill the dent with water and wait until it dries. If the dent is less deep but still visible, you can repeat the process. As with most of the repairs we talk about here, the repaired surface may need a coat of wipe-on finish to look its best.