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Thread: Steaming out a dent - tutorial

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Central NY State

    Steaming out a dent - tutorial

    No, it isn't Car Talk.
    I got the idea to do this from Bill Satko, who reminded me that it’s really easy to put a dent in soft secondary wood.

    So imagine you’re proud of your new dovetails, until you see this nice dent on one, that happened as you banged them out, when a small chip was under the soft wood.

    The solution: steam out the dent.

    Here’s the equipment needed – water, paper towel, and a household iron.

    DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use your honey’s iron for this. The way to get an iron is to offer to buy LOYL a new iron, and you get to keep the old one. Win, win.

    First spray a little water on the dent, maybe a teaspoon or so. Then place the paper towel, folded up over it, and saturate the towel with the sprayer.

    Wait til your iron is hot, I use whatever the maximum setting is. [The OCD scientist in me had to put temp readings on the iron, but that is totally unnecessary.]

    Then, strike while the iron is hot. A nice ball of steam comes out with a hiss. Firm pressure is good.

    After as many repeats of this procedure as you need, you will have raised the dent above the surface of the wood.

    Let this dry out for a while. Maybe use a heat gun or the iron dry, or just wait, then plane smooth. The result should look like this.

    Practice on scrap before you tackle a real job. It's a great fix for a common problem. - With thanks to Tage Frid, who wrote about this in his book.
    Last edited by ken werner; 11-21-2010 at 05:27 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Cape Cod, Ma.
    That's a great method Ken, I use it all the time. You don't necessarily need a clothes iron, If you have a burn in knife it works very well for small dents. And (some folks get a little grossed out so sorry in advance but) Saliva works even better than tap water. Dab a little on and let it sit for a min then hit it quick with the heat.
    Also, while using a power sander a little dab on a small dent and the heat from the friction is enough to raise it out and sand it smooth in one motion.

  3. #3
    Due to the fact that some of my projects seem to acquire dings and dents from time to time, I've needed to use this technique. The last time was when a one-off frame and panel end of expensive wood fell against the threaded end of a pipe clamp and left some memorable indentations. It works very well. My son has never found the repairs.

    Thanks for doing the tutorial, to share the wealth.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Great write-up, Ken. I dropped off a copy in the Tips and Tutorials area for future reference.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    It is a great system. Used it once on our organ. I used damp cloth. I forget what kind of cloth, however it had a bit of thickness to it like flannel.
    You could not find where it happened.

    Experiment before you try the real thing.


    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Ken I had cause to use this technique on my vanity project. On issue i had was it was rather difficult to do once the wood was stained. But I mannged to do it.

    Sent from my MB860 using Tapatalk

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