Design & DIY

4 tricks to restore scratched furniture

Close up of a scratched wood surface By photosthai/Shutterstock

It takes just one scratch to mar a piece of cherished furniture. But repairing it can be fun and satisfying, especially when many of the remedies are close at hand.

1. Use oil

For shallow scratches, I employ an old-school photographer’s trick. Be it a scratched film negative or furniture, a bit of body oil (which is oil and wax)—gathered on the side of the nose or behind the ear —makes scratches vanish. Just rub the oil into the scratch, and then buff with your palm. If the scratches are deeper, check the cottage pantry: safflower and walnut oil react over time with oxygen to make a tough film. Dip a toothpick in oil, and then trace along the scratch.

2. Try permanent marker

Sometimes, scratches are in coloured topcoats, and a clear oil won’t do the trick. That’s where permanent markers come to the rescue. They’re available in wood-matching colours and different tip sizes from well-stocked hardware stores. Trace the scratch carefully with the marker, and then use a denim-wrapped block to remove any excess. You can also add some drying oil over top of the marker once it dries to build up the film.

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3. Use wax

For table tops, fill a substantial scratch with natural or coloured wax, which can come from beeswax or paraffin candles, kids’ crayons, or wax repair sticks. Using a candle or lighter flame, heat the wax until it drips into the scratch. Slightly overfill it, using a plastic card to press the wax tightly into the depression, and then to scrape excess from the surface. Finish off by rubbing the repair with your denim-wrapped block. Voilà!

4. Go with putty

For deeper scratches on vertical surfaces, and where colour is miss­ing, go with ready-to-use soft wood putty, which you can get as a crayon or a fat pencil. Rub it across a scratch until it’s just above the surface. Don’t be afraid to blend colours to match the grain. Using a credit card, press the putty well into the defect, then use the card to scrape the surface flat. With the denim block, rub diagonally across the repair to burnish the putty and remove any excess.

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This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Cottage Life.

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