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