An unexpected acquisition exploded into weeks of DIY wood repair for David. How did he overcome white water marks, dark water marks, burns, scratches, finish stripping, and create a new finish color? Read on to find out.

Backstory . . .
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Bedroom Set

We bought a lot of furniture and decor at a hectic estate sale last March. Unlike our usual sales, this house was wall-to-wall Mid-Century Modern (MCM), every room overflowing with stunning pieces. Collectors and dealers came out in droves. My son Michael and I were among the first into the house and it was a bonanza.

We came across a beautiful Broyhill Premier Sculptra bedroom set, made in 1964. Unfortunately, the high prices wouldn’t allow us to make any money on resale. Michael suggested we leave a bid but, with the eager mob surrounding us, I didn’t think we had much of a chance.

Surprise! A phone call informed us we were the proud new owners of the Broyhill set. Broyhill Premier manufactured their Sculptra collection between 1957 and 1965. With our purchase we acquired one of the first king-sized headboards ever made.

Great collection. We put it in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery and enjoyed lots of interest.

A client and friend contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in buying a matching nightstand. She had paid already paid a mover to deliver her own merchandise and they would throw in the nightstand at no shipping cost to us. Good deal.

Big Problem: Wood Repair Needed

On a muggy, rain drenched night, the nightstand arrived. It matched the collection’s design but troublingly sported a cherry stain, not our golden walnut.
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Nightstand Cherry

David pulled out the CitriStrip and began the process of wood repair. He’s the expert at our house.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra Nightstand CitriStrip
First side loaded up with stripper — 4 more to go
Stripping Broyhill Premier Sculptra
Residue CitriStrip and old finish

But this baby had issues beyond its color. Once the cherry finish came off David tackled the stains and scratches.

White Water Mark

The white water mark was easy. Denatured alcohol helped get rid of it and a 180-grit sanding left it matching the rest of the top.

Broyhill Premier Sculptra nightstand damage

Dark Water Marks

Dark water marks are always the hardest to remove. With the finish completely removed, David used a paste of oxalic acid, marketed as Wood Bleach (Trade name). This is neither a quick nor easy solution. It sometimes takes several coats to minimize the black ring, which is caused by water soaking into and reacting with the tannins in the wood.

After three applications, most of the dark ring disappeared. He sanded down the area with 180-grit sandpaper and was fortunate that it didn’t ghost back through when the he applied the new stain medium.

Burn Marks

Finally one goes our way. The burn wasn’t deep and was easily sanded out with 180-grit.


The scratch was a bit deep. David knew if he sanded the veneer to remove the stain, he’d run the risk of going through the veneer. Then the area the wouldn’t take stain properly. He tossed out this option. Instead he used a steam iron and a wet cloth to pull the scratched area back to the surface. When heat is applied to wet wood, it raises the grain. As you can see in the picture, the scratch is now flush with its surrounding face. There is a dark line or bruising now visible, but no deep scratch. Once he had it flush, David sanded the dark area down then matched the tone of the wood around it.
Broyhill Premier Sculptra wood damage

Matching the Stain

With the blemishes in the wood ameliorated, David took up the task of staining the piece to match the walnut tones of our other pieces. Minwax Special Walnut looked like a good match when he put it on an inconspicuous area for testing color. He plunged in and stained the entire piece.

Wrong. It looked way too red to belong to our Sculptra collection. Next up, a car trip to a local furniture refinishing business and a plea for knowledge. I imagine David pressed the finisher about miracles. Could this piece be saved? Especially with the time and effort already invested. The pessimistic answer he received held a ray of hope and, frankly, he felt it was too late to turn back. Like Ahab, David and his nemesis nightstand found themselves locked in a mortal struggle. The poor finisher skeptically advised Provincial, a stain close in tone to Special Walnut but mostly based on green. The only way to kill the red was to mix it with green.

Still Mixing the Stain . . .

Provincial toned down the reddish color but didn’t come close to matching the existing finish. Frustration. A week and a half of work needed to be removed from the piece. Out came the CitriStrip for two more full strippings. Several hours and many dark words later and there! The nightstand was back to neutral with no red tone bleeding out of the wood.

He surmised that the original finish had been a layer of dye and shot with cherry toner before the finished top coat got sprayed on.

The extra strip was an attempt at removing any residual red tone from the wood. After a few trial-and-error color matches, he went with a mixture of Watco Light Walnut and Golden Oak. The Light Walnut still had some red in the light walnut stain. The Golden Oak toned that down and added a lighter golden hue to some of the wood graining.


David came very close to matching the two pieces. The lighter undertones of the original collection mimicked what an aging process would have done to the finish and the wood underneath. I was quite pleased with the final results; David bordered on ecstatic.

David DIY Wood Repair
My Hero

An added bonus: after three weeks we no longer had to explain why the second nightstand was offsite. More importantly David stopped muttering to himself about stains and tones and being generally disagreeable when things didn’t work right. But that’s pretty common, right?

Lesson learned: matching tones of wood finishes is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it’s best to let the pro do the job. But David loved the learning experience and he lucked out on the top of the curve. Pretty amazing. He gives himself 25% to skill and 75% to luck — and not knowing when to quit.
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Nightstands

Here they are, together at last. The collection sold within a week. Don’t they look beautiful together? And heroic David brought about this transformative wood repair.
Broyhill Premier Sculptra Nightstands

Thanks for visiting. We love reading your comments.

Ann Marie & David

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19 Comments on DIY Wood Repair: Water Marks, Burns, Scratches, Finishing

  1. Eilis@MyHeartLivesHere
    September 28, 2016 at 3:40 pm (5 years ago)

    Great tips for saving wood furniture! Thank you for joining Monday Social!

    • irisabbey
      September 29, 2016 at 2:10 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Eilis. I’m enjoying your blog and the Monday Social.

  2. Kitty
    September 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm (5 years ago)

    What wonderful tips you’ve shared that are helpful for all of us.

    • irisabbey
      September 29, 2016 at 6:10 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Kitty — David can work magic with damaged wood. Astonishingly, he knows a guy with greater wood-magic superpowers if more help is needed.

  3. Botanic Bleu
    September 30, 2016 at 3:37 am (5 years ago)

    This is an amazing story of woodworking repair skills. Kudos to David for trying until he found the right combination of stains for the final finish.

    Thank you for sharing at Monday Social.


    • irisabbey
      September 30, 2016 at 4:01 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Judith. He never gave up, although he talked to himself a bit. David did a great job.

  4. Pili
    October 5, 2016 at 5:51 am (5 years ago)

    David did a great job here and of course he was allowed to those dark words!! Thanks so much for those useful tips, I always sweat when I find watermarks on the wood.
    And thanks for sharing it with us at Sweet Inspiration, I chose this as my feature for this week.

    • irisabbey
      October 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm (5 years ago)

      Pili, thank you for choosing to feature our transformed nightstand. David is out handling some things in preparation for the hurricane, but I’ll share your exciting news — a ray of sunshine on a dark day.

  5. Mary-the boondocks blog
    October 5, 2016 at 9:46 pm (5 years ago)

    This is such a great post. I read it about a week ago and thought I had commented back then Ann Marie. I guess I’m getting mixed up. I remember thinking how your husband had a frustrated expression on his face with this project. But in the end, it all turned out just fine. Thank you for teaching us all these invaluable tips.

    • irisabbey
      October 6, 2016 at 1:33 am (5 years ago)

      Hi, Mary — He worked so hard on that little nightstand. I’m thrilled the set sold quickly after adding the little one. Thanks for your enthusiastic comments.

  6. Michelle
    October 7, 2016 at 7:48 am (5 years ago)

    I really, really enjoyed reading about David’s nemesis nightstand and how he conquered it. Thank goodness it didn’t drag him to the bottom of the sea because it looks amazing. Well done

    • irisabbey
      October 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm (5 years ago)

      Michelle, I’m getting back to normal after the hurricane took our our electricity and computer access for a week. Thanks for your kind words about David’s efforts on his nemesis nightstand. The struggle made him a stronger man.

  7. Diana
    October 27, 2016 at 2:49 am (5 years ago)

    Fascinating story, guys, with a great, happy ending! What a beautiful bedroom set–

    • irisabbey
      October 27, 2016 at 7:41 pm (5 years ago)

      David put tremendous effort into this little piece. Thanks for recognizing his work.

  8. Ilana
    November 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm (4 years ago)

    Your restoration work is beautiful! I just bought a Sculptra dresser, and I want to stain our currently unfinished wood bedframe to coordinate with it. Is there a stain you would recommend?

    • irisabbey
      December 10, 2017 at 1:55 am (4 years ago)

      The color on Kent Coffey furniture is the result of using a toner in the lacquer finish. Toners are very difficult to match. I have tried a couple of times with mixed success but never on a Kent Coffey piece. In fact I am getting ready to send a chest and two end tables over to the fellow I use for refinishing. Doing this work is beyond my pay level/ability.Sorry there isn’t a magic wand answer for this one; choosing the correct toner is like going through the Pantone Color samples trying to find a match. Google “using toners to finish furniture” there are some good tutorials but I am not set up for spray booth work. David


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