When you want to repair a scratch on a piece of furniture, your first concern is whether the damage has penetrated the finish. If it has, and the furniture is covered with a walnut hardwood veneer, you may be able to sand it out -- but you need to do so with care to avoid wear-through. Walnut has a close, regular grain, and it may be possible to fix some scratches by coloring them with wax.
Cleaning and Inspecting
You may know the veneer has scratches, but you may not get a clear idea of how deep they are until you thoroughly clean the cabinet, table or chair. A wipe-down with a solution of warm water and dish detergent removes most surface grime. After drying it thoroughly with a rag, wipe the surface down with another rag dampened with mineral spirits. Keep wiping until the rag doesn't pick up any more dirt, and then use a cotton swab and mineral spirits to clean crevices and carvings. If you don't know what kind of finish is on the veneer, dab an inconspicuous spot with alcohol. If it softens, it's shellac; if it doesn't, it's lacquer.
In the best case, scratches marring the veneer haven't penetrated the finish, so you can use a simple technique to make them go away. Rub down the surface with extra-fine steel wool moistened with tung oil. Go with the grain, and keep rubbing until the scratches are gone -- but don't rub hard enough to completely remove the finish. If some scratches won't come out, you can probably hide them later. After you've finished rubbing, let the surface dry overnight. Then coat it with two or more coats of spray lacquer from an aerosol can.
Coloring Deeper Scratches
Scratches that don't come out when you rub with tung oil have either indented or penetrated the veneer, and while you may be able to sand these out, there's an easier way to hide them. Cover them using a wax-tip repair pencil from a hardware store, or -- even easier -- use one of your child's crayons. Crayons come in a wide assortment of colors, so it should be easy to find a match. Rub the crayon or pencil across the scratch to get wax into the crevice, and then wipe the repair with mineral spirits to remove the excess wax.
Sanding and Recoating
If a deep scratch is in a visible area, covering it with wax may not be a good enough repair, and you may want to sand the scratch out. If you choose this option, use 150-grit or finer sandpaper to avoid wearing through the veneer, and sand by hand, going with the grain. After the scratch is gone, feather the edges of the repair to avoid sharp borders. To finish, wipe on the appropriate stain color, and coat with two or more coats of clear shellac or lacquer, depending on the existing finish.
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