Touching Up Veneer Sand-Throughs

Tips for a first-timer on fixing a sand-through defect. August 16, 2012

I'm ready to finish (clear or stained - don't know yet) some mahogany shelves. The carpenter did a great job over-sanding to level joints and solid trim to the plywood, and of course burnt through the veneer. I need a quick and easy way to fix at least the color in these areas. They aren't big, but they are visible. Nothing crazy, please.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
Been there and done that. Well, to put it simply, you're in a tough spot. Touching up veneer is difficult for even the best finishers. About the only thing you can do is try to touch it up with either multiple coats of some Blendal powders dissolved (and thinned) in your choice of finish using a fine artist's brush or touchup pens from Mohawk/Behlen (use a razor blade to put a pointier tip on the end). You won't get it perfect. The trick is to just not have your eye drawn to the sand through. Darker is always better.

From contributor C:
Might end up easier getting some pre-glued sheets of mahogany veneer, simple peel and stick. As said before, blending in will be difficult.

From contributor M:
Since when did touchup become a black art? Probably the same time that carpenters started sanding wood for stain! If you are in the business of finishing wood and you are not good at touching up sand throughs, you either live a very charmed life or you better learn. They are cutting veneers half as thick as they used to.

Powdered dyes (you pick the supplier - Kremer, Sonopia, etc.). You will need: lamp black, red, blue, purple, green yellow, warm yellow, white, raw umber and burnt umber. A few tablespoons of each will last you years. Store them in a fly fishing assortment box. One bottle of shellac and a bottle of alcohol. Hit your local art supply store for a few fine long bristle brushes and cut a few 3x3 scraps of cardboard and you are all set. A few drops of shellac and a few drops of alcohol mixed with color should do. Grain in the lightest background grain color and seal with sanding sealer. Next, mix black and one of the browns to get the grain color, then seal and sand. Finally, mix a transparent overtone, seal and final. Like anything else, it will take practice, but it is very doable and will save you and your customers tons of money. If you do not care to start, then find a local furniture touchup person and pay them extra to hang over their shoulder.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. The good part: the customer knows all about it. So I'm trying to fix it, first of all to learn, and second because if the carpenters have to replace it, it is going to delay the finishing process.

From contributor B:
Contributor M, I believe he mentioned "nothing crazy". Yes, it can be done, and I've done it. But as you well know it's not the easiest thing to make glue or veneer backing look like wood again, if you even can without being a pro faux finisher. Obviously from the questioner's post, he's not as experienced as you.

Mohawk sells a Blendal kit. A great kit for any finisher. It works with any type of finish.

From contributor L:
Look at Mohawk's Finishing site. They have a complete selection of touchup supplies. You no longer need to have the powders, as they have come up with Blendal sticks. I use them all the time - they are terrific. Also they have graining pens, markers, both background and transparent. You could make most stuff disappear pretty well.

From contributor M:
A coloring book is crazy if you never tried one. If I brought up halos and color shifts, that would be crazy. It is a learned art that should be tried. Couple that with a little color theory and it could improve any finisher.

As for the store bought stuff, I still have most of the touchup powders that came with my master kit from Mohawk 40 years ago. They made lots of money off me by pre-bottling and mixing pretty colors that never match anything I am working on. Once I used all the basic colors, the rest just sit in the box. Once I realized that for what they charge for a 2 oz bottle, I could buy a full pound of powder, I can mix any color or tone I want to. The trade is hard enough without using what someone else makes for you. Still have not opened that Derxsel Mahogany bottle. A few shading pencils from the local art supply store for a buck each also work well.