There's an old saying thai a finish is only as good as the surface it covers, so it stands to reason that preparing that surface properly is a vital part of the finishing process. There are two primary steps to preparing new wood for finishing: filling or repairing surface defects; and sanding the piece to a uniform surface. And if you plan to use water-based finishing materials, you'll need to add a third step—raising and de-furring the grain. Here's how to handle each step:
By the time your wood has gone from plank to projcct, it has probably picked up some battle scars. This damage is usually in the form of dents, gouges and scratches. Since wood fibers aren't tom when wood is dented, you can usually repair dents by steaming. (See photo.) In the case of gouges, the wcxkI fiber is either torn or missing. Gouges—along with pinholes, knot cracks, and other voids—must be filled or puttied. Scratches, which arc really extended gouges, may be sanded if they are shallow enough. Otherwise you'll have to putty them like other gouges and possibly touch them up later to camouflage them. (For more on touch-ups, see "Just Finishing," aw *28.)
To steam a dent, put two or three drops of clean water directly into the dent with a clean touch-up bnish or a toothpick. Let the water soak in for about 30 seconds, then add another drop to form a dome over the dent.
Place a damp cotton cloth over the wood and press the tip of a hot iron over the dent. (For very small dents, I often use a burn-in knife or a soldering iron instead.) The damp cloth will protect the surrounding wood from scorching. Check the spot frequently, applying heat until all the water has dried. If the denied fibers don't respond fully on the first try, you may have to repeat the process. If the "dent" is still there after vour third
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