If you have discovered a cigarette burn on your wood furniture, don't despair. Whether it's just a singe or a deep burn, it can probably be repaired.
While you can fix many burn marks yourself, repairing an antique or other valuable furniture piece is probably best left to experts. Always test the effect that a solution will have on a finish by first trying it on an inconspicuous part.
Here's how to repair a superficial burn--one that mars the finish but hasn't reached the wood:
* Try rubbing the marred surface with a soft, clean cloth moistened with commercial furniture cleaner, available in hardware stores. Or use one of these traditional home remedies: Make a thick paste of cigarette ash and water and rub it into the spot. Or lightly scrub the spot with straight ammonia if you're in a well-ventilated area.
* If a cleaner or ammonia doesn't work, form a thin paste by mixing rottenstone or finely powdered pumice with linseed oil. (All three items are available at hardware stores or from woodworking suppliers.) Using a soft, clean cloth, rub the paste with the grain. Repeat until the burn disappears.
Tips for burns that have gone through the finish but just barely into the wood:
* Gently rub the charred area with fine steel wool. Remove any remaining blackening by dabbing on straight liquid bleach with a cotton swab.
* In matching color to refinish a discolored area, start light. It is easier to darken an area than to lighten one you've made too dark.
* Use artist's oil paints for simple spot refinishing. Mix a color match. Then, with your fingertip, apply as thin a coat as possible to the discoloration. (Thin coats dry more quickly.) Keep the paint thin by applying it sparingly--don't thin the paint with turpentine.
* Try colored furniture wax or polish, a crayon or a felt-tip pen. Or you can buy oil-base stain for touch-ups in felt-tip and small brush-topped containers. Test first on an inconspicuous area. Then proceed slowly with care.
* When the paint dries, spray the repair with clean lacquer, let it dry and spray a second time to get an even sheen. Rub the surface with OOO grade steel wool, then wax.
For a burn that goes into the wood, buy a stick of tinted wax or shellac, both available in hardware and woodworking supply stores. Select a color that matches the lightest grain in the wood. Whether you are applying wax or shellac, the procedure is the same. Wax is easier to use and can be easily removed if you don't like the result, but it is not durable enough for tabletops or other heavily used surfaces.
* Gently sand or scrape away the blackened wood with a single-edge razor blade or a utility knife.
* To apply the filler, use a special curved knife, called a burn-in knife. Or you can use an ordinary curved grapefruit knife. Heat the knife over the sootless flame of a spirit lamp (available in hardware or woodworking supply stores) or heat it over an electric stove burner.
* Hold the wax or shellac stick against the heated blade and guide the melting filler into the depression in the wood. Reheat the knife as needed. Fill the hole slightly higher than the surrounding area. Try this technique on a scrap piece until you feel comfortable using it.
* When the filler has cooled, scrape off the excess with a razor blade. With shellac, scrape off any excess before it hardens, then sand when it's hard. To match the grain, paint darker streaks across the patch with a fine-tipped brush, connecting them to the grain lines of the surrounding wood.