Patching Scratches in Pre-Finished Plywood

Thoughts on scratch repair, cutting, gluing, and prices for pre-finished plywood. March 1, 2006

I am thinking of switching to pre-finished maple plywood for boxes. Has anyone found a method for touching up scratches in the UV cured finish, short of completely grinding off the finish? Even conversion varnish doesn't stick to this finish.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
If you are talking about the boxes that won't be seen, I usually leave any small scratches. If I can't see them once they are installed, it's unlikely the customer will. I have used paste wax to touch up some of the bigger ones. Its color and sheen seems to match fairly well with the UV finish. Be careful when handling the sheets and you shouldn't have much to repair.

From contributor C:
I have heard this complaint repeatedly. We manufacture wood office furniture, and switched to the UV topcoat five years ago. My main advice is to carefully handle these sheets. Even the supplier of the UV material doesn't have a fix for this. This is one of the hidden costs of using this material.

From the original questioner:
The wax is a good idea. Anyone tried shellac? It has solved a lot of problems for me with incompatible materials. I think I will give it a try.

From contributor K:
Depends on the scratch... If it's a surface scratch, try natural stain, and it'll disappear. If it's a deeper scratch or a gouge, you could also fill the scratch with a matching putty (a mixture of oak and pine, or cherry and pine match quite well), and coat with something natural... ends up looking like a mineral streak in most cases. Of course, if it is a clear sheet with no natural characteristics (A or B grade), you're better off and most likely to save yourself fabricating/finishing costs by saving this part of the board for drawer banks, corner cabs, base cab backs, toe-kick material, etc. where it will not be seen.

From contributor J:
I use a pre-finished birch plywood product called NOVA for my boxes (1/2") and shelves (3/4"). I love this stuff. My customers have really liked the light, clean interior look it provides. Like the other folks have said, handling it carefully is your best option. The finish is pretty durable, so you shouldn't have many problems.

Two other comments… I haven't found a good way to glue this stuff yet. I haven't tried Gorilla Glue and don't want to use epoxy. I'm putting it together with pocket screws, which is working quite well. Not the fastest operation, but it beats finishing the inside of the box. The other thing is it crosscuts beautifully with a combination blade. On the finished side, there's no splintering at all and the usual splintering on the unfinished side. If you get it with both sides finished, it looks like it's been cut with a laser on both sides.