How to: Fix a small dent on wood

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by Rusti, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. Rusti

    Rusti SS.org Regular

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    Hey everyone!

    I often get asked and see people asking how to do this, so i thought i could post a small tutorial on how to do it.
    I don't claim this to be the only or the best way to do it. Thats simply how i do it. It works well for me and i hope it could help someone else too.

    Dents occures frequently on soft woods, even if you try to be as careful as possible, its easy to dent them with a tool or hitting the desk for example.
    Luckily its also easy to fix them.
    This method works on bare wood (no finish applied), and it works for dents only, where the wood fibers have been compressed as consequense of a hit.
    This means it doesnt work if there is any missing material or if a piece of wood chipped out. It also doesn't work if the grain is broken or interrupted due to a severe hit.

    Here we go with the very basic list of tools needed:
    - Heat gun
    - Water
    - Rag\cloth
    - Block (of wood or whaterver you prefer)
    - Sandpaper (i used P240)

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    I have this piece of swamp ash im going to joint to another piece, and it has a small dent right on the edge along the joint line, so i must fix this first. There are two dents so im going to take pics for the fixing process of the bigger one.
    Pencil for reference on the size

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    [​IMG]

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    Take the cloth, fold it a couple of times. It must be big enough to cover the area sorrounding the dent. Soak it and drop some water on the dent. Let the wood absorb the water for like 30 seconds and repeat. You want the wood around the dent to be wet as well.

    [​IMG]

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    Soak the cloth again and place it over the dent covering the dent and the area you are going to heat.
    Don't worry about soaking too much wood. Its even better to have a wet area around the cloth so you can easily see when the wood is drying.

    [​IMG]

    Time to heat it.
    The basic process is to make the water inside the wood evaporate expanding the wood grain back to its original shape.
    Keeping both the wood and cloth always wet is the most important thing to care about, or you will risk to burn the wood.. and that would be a problem.
    Use a heat gun. I heard someone uses a iron soldering but i've no experience with it. My heating gun has 2 levels of heating and i use the first one, which is the one with lower temperature.
    Heat the cloth right where the dent lies beneath it. I use to stay about 4/5cm far from the cloth.. it depends on the heat of your gun.
    Heat it for like 10 seconds and often check the cloth temperature with your hand. I never let it get hot enought to not be able to place my hand on it for a couple of seconds.
    You can in any time remove the cloth (and the gun too, of course) and check the progress of the dent.
    Again, always be sure to keep the wood and the cloth wet. Place the rag back in its place and repeat the process till the dent is fixed.
    While checking the cloth's temperature you also will make sure its not getting dried.
    Take your time on this part.

    [​IMG]

    When you feel like the dent has raised enough you can stop the heating, remove the rag, and let dry.
    The good thing is that once dried, if it looks like its not fixed enough you can start from the beginning and repeat the whole process.

    This is how my dent looks after heating.

    [​IMG]

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    And this is how it looks after drying

    [​IMG]

    If it doesnt look fixed enough, start from the beginning BEFORE sanding, because removing wood is kinda the opposite of what we're trying to do.
    If it looks just right, it's time to sand! The fixing process created some small bumps and i need to keep the surface dead flat because im going to joint it, so im going to use a big (compared to the area im going to sand) flat block of wood and a quite fine sandpaper 240 grit.

    [​IMG]

    And this is how it looks after sanding. Perfect :yesway:

    [​IMG]

    Hope this was helpful! Cheers!
     
    Taylor, ikarus, Hollowway and 2 others like this.
  2. J_Mac

    J_Mac SS.org Regular

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    Woah! Thanks dude :)
     
  3. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Wow, that's awesome! Thanks for showing.
     
  4. jwade

    jwade Doooooooooom

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    A lot of people won't have a heat gun, so an alternative is to just use a clothes iron and a wet cloth/towel/etc
     
  5. Deegatron

    Deegatron SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for posting this! I'm sure it will come in handy sometime down the road.
     
  6. ikarus

    ikarus SS.org Regular

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    Nice one! I had a little heart attack when I realized that its the ash for my build. :lol:
     
  7. dante511039594

    dante511039594 SS.org Regular

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    I wonder will this method be able to apply to the actual guitar
     
  8. Berserker

    Berserker SS.org Regular

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    Of course, that's the whole idea of it. As long it's unfinished wood it'll work.
     
  9. jandro

    jandro SS.org Regular

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    Another method that has proved to be of tremendous help for me is a wet rag and a soldering iron directly on the dent. You can remove some really crappy dents on softwoods like certain species of mahogany in less then 2 minutes. It helps to fold the cloth so that you don't burn the wood.
     

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