Touching Up a Cross-Grain Scratch in Mahogany Veneer

For deep scratches in veneer, your best bet is to start over. But in a pinch, here are some tips and techniques for hiding the mistake (sort of). May 17, 2005

We have a cross grain scratch to deal with on mahogany veneer. We've tried sanding it out, but it's through to the particle core, so that won't work. Short of starting over (a definite possibility at this point), can I hide the scratch by using paste wood filler on the entire project or is there another way to disguise it?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
It's possible that the paste wood filler would accent that cross grain scratch. If you're sure that you're down to the particle core, you have two choices, and one is to remove the veneer and start over and the other involves burning in shellac sticks or wax sticks and doing the best you can to touch up that scratch until it goes away or until it becomes three times larger than it really is.

From contributor F:
Without knowing exactly what you are dealing with, it sounds like you're looking at a re-do.

From contributor I:
Is this a small cross grain scratch or does it go all the way across the panel?

From contributor A:
Try a steam iron, not too much water, though - just enough and it might pop out.

From the original questioner:
I'm afraid it goes right across one of the panels.

From contributor I:
I think I would start over. Cross grain scratches are the hardest to touch up and on a nice mahogany piece, I would want it done right as long as I had the option.

From contributor T:
I can touch up any cross grain scratch with deadly accuracy. There is no way to see the scratch unless I move across the table. Then and only then does it look like I stitched the arm back on a teddy bear, and let me tell you… I ain't no seamstress.

It will probably be easiest to do over. Unless you are one hell of a touchup guy, you're not going to save a dime doing either, so why fight it? Good luck with the re-do. Whoa! If you are going to go dark with the color, you are in good shape, as you can mask the scratch to almost invisible if you're patient and can work the touchup into your schedule. In other words, don't try to touch up the thing in one or two shots - work it in. Is this a possibility?

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Machine sanding usually goes through the veneer before the scratch disappears. In a lot of cases, I'm able to hide a cross-grain scratch on veneer by hand sanding with the grain using coarse sandpaper (100 grit). It doesn't always work, especially on really bad scratches. Most of the time, the cross-grain scratch is broken up enough that's it's not visible to anyone but me.

If you start to go through the veneer before the hand sanding hides the scratch, then starting over is the option I'd take.

From the original questioner:
We were forced to start over. Back to square one in a day. The lesson: as always, it's not so bad once you stop agonizing about it and just do the work!

From contributor G:
When a firm was moving furniture and equipment into new offices, the head guy didn't think to properly protect the mahogany entry door, and - you guessed it - the movers left deep, wide jagged scratches through to the core substrate. I suggested a re-skin, but the building manager said matching the age-old inlaid veneer would be impossible (Chrysler Bldg). They also didn't want to remove the very heavy door to horses for burn-in, so I used a stick of hard wax and leveled and burnished it with the building's extra hard ID tag they make you wear. I then added grain lines with thin art brush.

In my written proposal I stated that the proper method of repair is under shop conditions, and that the client understands and accepts that on-site touchup has limitations that may leave some blemishes slightly visible. The final result was that looking head-on, you can barely see the repairs, but against the glaring hall ceiling light, you can see traces. The contractor said it was a good job. I'm now waiting to hear the verdict of the building manager, who is real touchy.