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Old 07-07-2010, 00:48   #1
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Varnish Help

*I am about to redo some of the interior varnish. There are a few spots where the varnish has broken down completely.(see photo).
On solid wood I can sand these back but what about on the veneered sections?


Should I just sand or is there any treatment that will clean the surface (I assume some of the discoloration is mould) reducing the amount of sanding and therefore the risk of sanding through the veneer.
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Old 07-07-2010, 00:58   #2
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Always consider replacing the wood in total. It might seem kind of draconian but it's often not that hard and you get pretty good results. If there is mold/rot/weak wood/black streaks that are more than superficial, you don't really have a lot of options.

I'd try sanding it a little with a fine grit on a mouse sander so you can't accidentally do too much damage, or maybe hitting it with a little wood bleach. Be careful with the bleaches they're powerful if you've never used them before.

A darker varnish will hide imperfections better.
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Old 07-07-2010, 02:01   #3
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You probably can't do much about the bare wood. No amount of sanding will find good wood from the looks of it. The best you can do is sand completely away all the damaged varnish. Sand the good varnish smooth. Then recoat. As posted above, darker and satin varnish will hide better. It will look much better no matter what. If it's not good enough then, yes, you'll need to 'simply' replace the wood.

I've never experienced bleaches doing anything useful in this situation.
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Old 07-07-2010, 03:54   #4
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Wood replacement is the typical and easiest method used by shops looking at this type of repair. It's harder, to repair the piece, but often, particularly in a restoration the only way to go.

The image shows damaged veneer and possibly some solid wood. It looks like something repeatedly rubbed against the area, right through the finish.

This finish can't be "touched" up in the usual sense, but the area can be restored to a large degree. If the patina is desired then scrape the finish from the surrounding areas, until the varnish is all dull. Very lightly feather the damaged area back into the good spots with 180 grit, progressively moving through 280 grit (always with the grain). This will soften the damage edges and semi smooth the rubbed areas. Next carefully apply a mixture of 70% varnish, 30% spirits to the raw wood only. Do this once and let dry. If the raw wood looks very dull, do it again. It it has a slight sheen (it probably will) then use straight varnish for the next two coats.

Now you have damaged wood that is sealed and abutting scrapped varnish. When the varnish is good and dry (at least 24 hours), knock down both areas with 220 grit, again working to 280 or 320 with the grain to blend the newly sealed damaged areas with the surrounding varnish. You can start revarnishing the whole piece as if nothing happened. It will show some of the distress and patina, but the surfaces will be blended and the damage much less obvious.

If you want to remove the damage completely, then the pieces need to come out, the whole of the finishes scraped off, the damage bleached and other wise "treated" to hide and remove the stains and imperfections.

Working veneers is a delicate process as you might imagine. You only have so much room to work with (the thickness of a veneer). The damage above looks like it could be easily fixed, with a slight patina showing, but shinny and varnished, which most don't find objectionable. To fully remove the damage, you'll have to do considerably more and replacement then becomes a viable option. As far as cleaning the surface, you'll get the mold (very little showing) with a diluted bleach and water mixture, but the wood has moisture damage which will have to be treated. There are a few ways to handle this, but most will still leave a slight discoloration, which under varnish becomes a wear patina.

A quick way to see how things will look with the wear patina is to wet out a rag with spirits then wipe the damaged areas with the rag. This will give you a good idea of the color changes that will take place with new varnish over the damage. Naturally, it'll look much better under varnish, then a quick wipe of spirits, especially if you're diligent about the blending and smoothing process, but this is an easy way to get a look at the end result before you do anything. The spirits will eventually "flash off" (evaporate) and you'll have raw, damaged wood again.
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Old 07-07-2010, 07:24   #5
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Looks like that area is behind a sink, Maybe preserve it then install some synthetic splashboard to protect the area in the future
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Old 07-07-2010, 07:43   #6
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whatever you do to the wood will be short lived if you don't take care of the design problem. The problem is that there is no sealing bead of caulk along the bottom edge of the wood. Moisture will continue to seep up the wood behind the finish given the close proximity of the water outlet...
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:05   #7
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Great post with detailed advise. Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by PAR View Post
Wood replacement is the typical and easiest method used by shops looking at this type of repair. It's harder, to repair the piece, but often, particularly in a restoration the only way to go.

The image shows damaged veneer and possibly some solid wood. It looks like something repeatedly rubbed against the area, right through the finish.

This finish can't be "touched" up in the usual sense, but the area can be restored to a large degree. If the patina is desired then scrape the finish from the surrounding areas, until the varnish is all dull. Very lightly feather the damaged area back into the good spots with 180 grit, progressively moving through 280 grit (always with the grain). This will soften the damage edges and semi smooth the rubbed areas. Next carefully apply a mixture of 70% varnish, 30% spirits to the raw wood only. Do this once and let dry. If the raw wood looks very dull, do it again. It it has a slight sheen (it probably will) then use straight varnish for the next two coats.

Now you have damaged wood that is sealed and abutting scrapped varnish. When the varnish is good and dry (at least 24 hours), knock down both areas with 220 grit, again working to 280 or 320 with the grain to blend the newly sealed damaged areas with the surrounding varnish. You can start revarnishing the whole piece as if nothing happened. It will show some of the distress and patina, but the surfaces will be blended and the damage much less obvious.

If you want to remove the damage completely, then the pieces need to come out, the whole of the finishes scraped off, the damage bleached and other wise "treated" to hide and remove the stains and imperfections.

Working veneers is a delicate process as you might imagine. You only have so much room to work with (the thickness of a veneer). The damage above looks like it could be easily fixed, with a slight patina showing, but shinny and varnished, which most don't find objectionable. To fully remove the damage, you'll have to do considerably more and replacement then becomes a viable option. As far as cleaning the surface, you'll get the mold (very little showing) with a diluted bleach and water mixture, but the wood has moisture damage which will have to be treated. There are a few ways to handle this, but most will still leave a slight discoloration, which under varnish becomes a wear patina.

A quick way to see how things will look with the wear patina is to wet out a rag with spirits then wipe the damaged areas with the rag. This will give you a good idea of the color changes that will take place with new varnish over the damage. Naturally, it'll look much better under varnish, then a quick wipe of spirits, especially if you're diligent about the blending and smoothing process, but this is an easy way to get a look at the end result before you do anything. The spirits will eventually "flash off" (evaporate) and you'll have raw, damaged wood again.
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Old 07-07-2010, 13:52   #8
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Thanks for all the great advice and the people that took the time to write such detailed replies. I think the photo probably looks worse than it does in real life( the veneer is discoloured but is still intact) so I am going to try some of the simple steps sugested first.
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