Fast Fixes for Dinged Edges
1 Machine away the problem
Unless the dimensions of your workpiece are absolutely critical, you can often make a problem area completely disappear with a machining step or two. Let's say you've banged up the edge of a tabletop that will overhang the aprons. Simply recut the top slightly smaller to remove the damage and then rout a fresh profile along that edge. No one will ever know that the tabletop is 1⁄8 " smaller than planned.
Another quick fix: Slightly alter and recut the edge profile. For example, switching from a 1⁄8 " to a 1⁄4 " round-over, as shown at below, makes the problem vanish with only a subtle change to your project.
2 Raise the surface
Wood swells when it gets wet. Normally, that's a problem, but you can use this characteristic to your advantage. Dampening wood fibers that were accidentally compressed helps the fibers "remember" their pre-damage position. It's most useful on impressions as deep as 1⁄16 ".
You can try water alone, but heat accelerates the process. First, apply a drop or two of water to the damaged area, and give it a minute to soak into the wood. Next, lay a barely damp cloth over the wood to protect it from scorching, and apply heat by touching the tip or edge of a clothes iron to the cloth. Try to confine the heating to the immediate area of the damage, and change the position of the cloth often as the heat dries it.
Be patient, because it takes awhile for the wood fibers to respond. In fact, you'll probably need to repeat the soaking and ironing sequence several times. Make sure that the wood dries thoroughly before sanding and applying a finish.
3 Patch with a plug
When dimensions are critical, such as an inset door where the reveal must match that of an adjacent door, or where repairs will be visible from two sides, patch the damage with a cylindrical (nontapered) solid-wood plug. To drill the hole into the edge of the workpiece, tilt your drill-press table to 45°, clamp the wood securely, and use a Forstner bit. (It's guided by its rim, so it won't wander.)
Chuck the plug cutter into your drill press, and cut edge-grain plugs, as shown in the photo at top of page, from project scrap. For accurate alignment, mark the grain direction on the plugs before removing them from the blank. Cutting a number of plugs will help ensure a good match of grain and color. After final sanding, the plug virtually disappears.
4 Inlay a repair patch
For a repair too large for a plug, you'll need to cut away stock along the edge to insert a patch. Again, careful stock selection will produce a patch that nearly disappears. Rout away the damage using a 45° chamfering bit, and complete the patch as shown in the photos below. Finally, plane or sand the patch flush with the surrounding wood, and finish-sand.
5 Repair sticks rescue finished projects
If you ding an edge after applying the finish, consider using a melt-in lacquer stick. Heat the special flexible repair knife over an alcohol burner to liquefy the color-matched repair stick. Apply the melted fix to the wood surface (below). You can even blend two or more sticks for a custom tint.
Finish the repair with 400-grit sandpaper and a touch of polishing compound, or an abrasive pad to even out the sheen. If you don't like the results, you can remove material by again heating the knife.
Plug cutters: Set of 1⁄4 ", 3⁄8 ", and 1⁄2 " (no. 146723), $33.99. Woodcraft, 800-225-1153, or woodcraft.com
Lacquer sticks: Set of 12 assorted colors (80K70.20); individual colors; burn-in knife (80K02.02). Lee Valley Tools, 800-871-8158, or leevalley.com