Repairing veneer sand-through

Short of firing the employee, what's the best fix for recurring sand-through in veneer edges? November 15, 2000

I have a new employee that just loves to sand through veneer along edges. Most of the time it is very slight--1" x 3/4". Is there any way to hide this? Most of it is on walnut, mahogany and cherry that gets a natural finish.

Forum Responses
What is the product and where is the sand through? You may get by with a touchup/repair.

From the original questioner:
The product is 3/4 veneer plywood. I have tried touch up and you can still see the repair. What am I doing wrong?

Your touch up is not blending in with the surrounding wood. You have to predict what the final color of the project is. Then you have to look at that color closely, breaking it down to at least three colors: (1) base color or background color; (2) middle color; (3) grain color.

You need to develop a technique of layering these colors when doing touch up. You also have to carve in the texture using an exacto knife or razor blade.

What is your current approach toward touch up?

We have had the same problem and have found two solutions: the first is to fire the employee (also the best way to keep it from happening again). The second is to use an edge planer and set it at about 1/16" to 1/32" deep and cut a piece of corresponding size on the table saw and glue it on. When the glue is dry just sand it off flush and you are good to go. Not the cheapest way to do it but by far the best way we have found.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. Yes, to fire the employee is an option, but I like to give everyone a fair shot. Also, in this day when you cannot find anyone to work, no matter what you will pay, I will try to teach him the way to sand. If that does not work, then he's gone.

We have used 2 or 4 mil veneer to repair as stated above. It is pretty good, but you waste a lot to get the grain to match, and even then, you can still see it if you look. I have also tried blending pens and grain pens, but have never tried the knife approach. What products should I use to get the colors? I have tried blending powders with qualasole, but the color is never right. It always looks painted.

I generally use an AC sealer and Duravar top coat, if it matters.

I also use blended powders, but I use M. L. Campbell Vinyl Sealer as my binder, not qualasole. There is a color shift of the powders as the padding lacquer dries. This color shift does not happen when you use lacquer of vinyl sealer as your color medium. But if you are padding the color in (or "finger padding") then you need the padding lacquer.

What has your Mohawk rep suggested? If he cannot show you great techniques for using their materials without suggesting that you go to their touch up school, then I suggest that you investigate Konig supplies. Check them out at Call them (215-426-6216) and I can bet they will be able to provide a selection of products that will be a little more effective than finger padding. They are a wonderful alternative to Mohawk, and their system approach is a little different. Give them a chance to explain or show it to you.

I use Konig, Star, Mohawk, Behlen. They are all the same except for Konig. It's always good to have an alternative touch up system. No one company is perfect for every situation.

From the original questioner:
Do you mix and spot spray the blendal and vinyl sealer? I had a Mohawk rep here about 2 years ago and he showed me how to blend, but did it in about 5 minutes and left. I later found out that he only likes to deal with very large accounts. He was not much help and when I said I wanted to buy a complete touch up kit, he just brushed me off.

When I am working with my Blendal Powders (dry pigment powders used for touch ups, same as Fresco Powders, Match-O-Blends, Furniture Touch Up Powders, etc.), I am usually brushing them on. Occasionally I will finger dab the powders and then spritz them with some lacquer to lock them in. Or I can finger pad, using a padding lacquer to lock them in (this takes practice and you have to have the correct padding lacquer).

The Konig approach is a little different. Each has their place, and that is why it is so important to see what Konig has to offer, and to see how Konig can make your life easier and your finish repair more fun.

You may want to investigate airbrushing in a background color for the sand throughs. Then you can etch in the grain texture (using the exacto knife), and then continue with your finish schedule.

I have had good success using a block out toner on sand through areas on veneer. The trouble you are up against is that you are putting a natural finish on the wood, whereas a darker finish is more forgiving to this type of application. I develop these toners myself at the plant I work at using laquer thinner and laquer tints. Keep in mind that you need to have the ability to mix or tint stains for this to work properly and be determined that you will be able to make it work.

From the original questioner:
I contaced Konig and they were very helpful. They asked me to send a sample with some damage that occurs. They will repair and send back with instructions and a list of supplies needed to do this repair. We talked on the phone for about 30 minutes and covered a lot of ground in that time.

I've read all the great info that has been posted here and as a seventeen-year veteran of furniture repair and refinishing I know how hard it is to pass up the challenge of making the repair. All these repairs take a great deal of time to apply correctly. At best you will match the color perfectly, but when you look from the other side of the piece you are working on, the repair takes on a different look. The problem is it's not the repair that is looking different--it's the wood.

When you finish a type of wood like mahogany with a natural finish, the light reflects differently in the grain and magically changes colors when you walk around it. That's the beauty of natural wood finishes. The quality of your work is going to reflect on your buisness for years to come. A top quality job will bring return work for years. I would spend the time to teach this person how to sand correctly and give him a chance to correct his errors. A perfect repair will never be as good as a perfect job.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor B:
You do not nesecarily need to fire the employee. You need to train and educate him, assuming he has attitude and aptitude. Then you need to remove the hand sander and buy a wide belt sander with a veneer segmented platten. If all of your veneer panels come in already sanded, this may not be needed - just good training. If you are producing mostly veneer products, you should invest in the sander. It will change the way you do business!