6. Repair Dents in Wood
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, dents happen. And whether they’ve appeared on a project you’re just preparing to finish or on a nice piece of wood you’re still making plans for, the mistake can be disappointing. But it doesn’t have to stay this way if you remember water and a clothes iron.
Wetting small and medium-size dents with water will cause the crushed and sunken wood to swell and rise. The result is greatest with softwoods, such as pine or cedar. Dents can swell so much that the resulting wood is actually higher than it was originally. Just wait a day or two for the water to dry completely, then sand off the resulting hill of swollen wood. For extra help, use an electric clothes iron in addition to a wet cloth to raise deep dents in hardwoods.
7. Widening Cabinet Doors That Are Too Narrow
Inset cabinet doors that fit neatly within a surrounding face frame look terrific. But they’re also challenging to build because the tolerances for error are small. And as you’ll discover, it’s quite easy to make inset cabinet doors too narrow for their opening, especially if pairs of doors meet in the middle. Any gaps are multiplied by two and put on display in the most prominent part of your project. The best fix for undersized inset doors involves a 1/4″-wide strip of bullnose trim. Fasten this semi-circular profile to one of the adjoining stiles where the doors meet, then plane the pair to fit the opening. The bullnose trim gives you a second shot at getting the door-to-frame clearances just right, but there’s an added bonus too. If small amounts of warping mean the door stiles don’t meet perfectly along their entire lengths, no problem. The curved edge of the bullnose hides the error surprisingly well.
8. Fixing Nail-Split or Screw-Split Wood
Power nailers are both good and bad. They speed up work and make it easier to create tight trim joints, but they also do damage when you don’t quite hit the target. And it’s easy to miss. But when misdirected nails exit the sides of boards, causing ugly splits in visible places, there’s no need to panic. Remove the nail, work some glue into the gap with a toothpick, then lay some wax paper over the area and clamp it tight. The wide jaws of a wooden handscrew do an excellent job here because they spread pressure so evenly. Give the repair a couple of hours to dry, slacken the clamp, then peel off the wax paper. Sand off the glue and paper residue, and it will look like you travelled back in time to the moment before you committed the blunder.
9 . Salvaging a Bubbly Finish
Water-based urethanes have a lot going for them, but finish quality usually isn’t one of their noteworthy attributes. Since most formulations dry so quickly, it’s common for air bubbles to harden on the surface, creating a rough, “toad skin” texture. The ultimate fix begins with 220-grit sandpaper. Use it to knock off all the bubbles after you’ve applied three or four coats of dried urethane. The finish will now feel smooth, although it will have a dull, uneven sheen. To make the surface beautiful, grab a random-orbit sander and a piece of fine or superfine 3M rubbing pad. Put the pad on the wood and the sander on the pad, then switch it on. The surface of the wood will grow progressively smoother and shinier as you do more power buffing. Stop buffing when you’ve achieved the level of sheen that pleases you. Work the pad by hand in areas that are too confined for the power sander. This system also works wonderfully to repair projects that have been ruined by dust settling on the surface of a wet finish.
10. Lengthening a Board You Cut Too Short
It’s easy to trim boards too short. And when the wood you’ve messed up is precious, it’s hard to toss it into the scrap pile. If your too-short board is wider than necessary, saw it diagonally from corner to corner, joint these edges, then glue the pieces back together again, pulled apart slightly from their former position. This procedure trades excess width for an increase in length. And if you do a good job, no one will ever notice. Just don’t tell anyone.
If you rely only on your ability to get things right the first time, then you’ll never reach your full potential, both as a woodworker and a human being. That’s because none of us are perfect. At least not on the first shot, anyway. Honing your technical fix-up skills is the woodworking equivalent of learning to say you’re sorry. It’s the secret of getting great results, even if you’re not quite great all the time.