Wood Dent Removal

Wood Dent

How to Remove Dents From Softwoods

It WILL happen. You have treated the instrument with care for many hours of building time, just when it is least expected a dent is discovered in a $160.00 prize Adirondack top that you have had aging in your shop for 2 years. “How could this happen, when I was so careful”, you ask yourself.

Well believe me, it will happen more than once. Some of the softer woods like the cedars are more susceptible to denting, but it can happen to spruce tops too. Even the most tidy workshops can still cause a dent by a small sliver of wood, a drop of glue, a raised nail or just a bump against some shop equipment.

I can remember by father had slaved away on a great acoustical guitar for many hours. He was ready to apply a sealer coat on the guitar prior to finishing. He had the guitar turned top down on a piece of carpet on the work bench and when he picked it up – there it was- a big, ugly dent right behind the bridge, in plain view. It was caused by a small spot of dried Titebond glue lodged and hidden in the carpet fibers. I was sick!

He said to me, very calmly, “don’t worry about it, it will come right out”. I said, “yeah by sanding half the top thickness away”. “Nope” he said. “We had this in the furniture factory all the time, and on the model, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture too.”

What he was talking about was a woodworkers secret of steaming out dents. You see, when you dent soft wood (hardwood too), you are compressing the soft tissue fibers of the wood. All of those little tubes in the wood are crushed, much like a handful of straws would be crushed by squeezing them.

Here Is The Solution To Remove A Small Dent:

Tools and Materials:
Soldering Iron with Small Tip For Electronics Soldering
Small Cup of Distilled Water
220 Garnet Sanding Paper

For small dents, say 1/8″ to 3/16″ across, this method should be used. Place a drop of distilled water using an eyedropper into the dent cavity. Next use a hot soldering iron and place its tip into the water, without contacting the wood. Immediately steam will begin to rise and the wood will rise as well and you will hear the water boiling by crackling sounds. When the moisture is nearly gone. Replenish the spot with the distilled water. Again, place the Soldering Iron on the spot or in the water until it is nearly dry.

By this time the wood dent should be completely gone and wood should be even with, or possibly even a little above the surrounding wood, if not, repeat until it is. Set the instrument, or wood plate aside to dry, or dry with an electric hair dryer or a paint removed heating gun. After it is completely dry, lighting sand with the 220 grit sandpaper.

Here is the Solution for a Larger Dent:

Tools Required:
Old Clothes Iron – not the steamer type if possible
Soldering Iron with Small Tip For Electronics Soldering
Small Cup of Distilled Water
Small Cotton Cloth
220 Garnet Sanding Paper

With a large dent, the procedure is slightly different. Since there is a larger area involved, we want to attack the dented area with a slightly different method.

Take the eyedropper and place water in the dent – do not fill all the up. Now take a small square of cotton cloth about 4″ square and fold in half. Thoroughly wet the cloth with water and place it over the dented area. Now place the preheated iron with the front tip of it on the rag. You will see steam rise and in a short period of time you should check the dented area. Wet the cloth again if needed and repeat the process.

Again try to raise the dented area to be slightly above the surrounding wood area. Set aside overnight to dry. Give a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper and a sanding block.

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