I have 5-6 pieces of furniture for which I need to refinish the tops. All have scratches, dents, dings, gouges, etc., most of which do not go down to the white wood (i.e. no loss of color). I want to avoid stripping and starting over. I went to a touch up and repair class last week, and they taught the use of various burn-in sticks. This method seems extremely hard to do, and when I get a fairly good fill, it still looks terrible when I put topcoat on it. I am using NC lacquer, and I feel that the furniture has lacquer on it as well.
Does anybody really use these burn-in sticks successfully? If so, how do you do it, and how much practice does it take before doing real work? What other suggestions do you have? I know I can sand and just start layering on coats of lacquer, but I am looking for a quicker fix.
From contributor D:
You didn't say which kind of burn-in sticks you tried. There's the EZ-FLO type (hard, shiny plastic), Plane stick (rubbery, dull plastic), and various wax sticks either from Mohawk or Konig.
You can paint in the dents and damages with clear lacquer and then sand them flush before your full topcoat. This method is not 100% because of issues with shrink-back and small area coating thickness, but the scars created are presentable.
I use the Plane stick and I use Wash Wax as a leveling agent. I coat over with the aerosol vinyl sealer and then topcoat. Spray lightly over your burn-ins and fills so the solvent doesn't attack them.
I also thought that a product called Blend-it would be the answer, but I really have problems with leveling it and topcoating it. No matter how much I sand it, you can still see it after the topcoat. The furniture I am refinishing is high dollar stuff with a heavy lacquer finish and has a high-gloss sheen.
2) Look at the scratches carefully. Sometimes the edges of the damage are white in color (torn finish), and after the burn-in, the white edges will still show around your burn-in. I like to touch up repairs prior to burn-ins if needed. This will allow you to polish the top surface without top coating. So create a color with Blendals powders or use Mohawk toners and apply it with a small artist's brush. It does not need to be perfect; any finish that gets on the top surface will be polished off or sanded off later. Now let the finish dry for an hour and start burning in your lacquer sticks.
3) Sand your burn-ins flat with 320 and 400.
4) Use the Mirca Abrolon pads with water and rub entire top surface by hand. Start with 1000, then 2000, lastly with 4000 grit and finally hand polish your finish with water and rottenstone. Hand polishing should only take 20 - 30 minutes max on a 3í x 6í desk top. Do not use a machine buffer. Machine buffers will soften and re-melt your burn-ins.
I use burn-in balm and the Plane Sticks. The knife I use most is the #62 and after applying the burn-in, I try to use the edge of the knife to shave the excess.
For heat I use a small propane torch. These tiny propane bottles are green and I think they come from Home Depot and the like. I think it is a Coleman, I don't recall.
Leveling the burn-in further is accomplished with 600 - 1200 grit wet/dry lubricated with either Mohawk's aerosol Wash Wax or with Rub Cut oil (mineral oil). The Wash Wax levels the fill more quickly because there are some solvents in the mix that are more aggressive (not at all harmful to fully cured lacquer finishes).
I seal in the fills with Mohawk's aerosol pre-catalyzed sanding sealer. I topcoat with light coats of clear, whatever sheen I need. If I am spraying a rubbed piece, then I need to think through my topcoating/spot repair. Maybe I need a full surface topcoat or maybe I can get away with spot spraying.
If the dents are deep/large enough, then I would want to use either Bondo or epoxy sticks to fill them. I can color them with Blendal Sticks (post cure) or more traditional coloring methods (Blendal powders). Make sure that you do as little sanding and that your filling technique leaves you with the most flush surface you can get. For epoxy stick, I use Formica samples coated with Wool Lube/water so that as little as possible of the stick will adhere to my flat Formica sample (I use this to press the fill flush and also to scrape the excess away). I also use my Flat Rigid knife to try to level my epoxy fills.
CA glue (don't use the activator) can also be used successfully for clear fills. You don't have much control over their leveling until after they cure, though. Sand flush and topcoat.
A note about sanding... Follow through with your sanding sequences and final sand with steel wool (lightly). That's your best shot at not having sheen differences, especially in original coats which have been formulated with waxes in them.
Comment from contributor L:
Try using Mohawk edging sticks. I grew up on burn in sticks for over thirty years. The edging sticks can be melted in with a lighter, sanded down with the back side of 400 wet or dry and dialed in with 400 - wet or dry with water (spit for the old timers). You can get it perfectly level and quickly and then seal , touch up and seal/finish as usual. Iíve done it for decades with excellent results and it makes a burn in iron obsolete. Itís somewhere between a burn in and a patchal pencil. Give it a try; I love it for quick and quality touch ups.