Marquee Rents: Fixing wood furniture

Marquee Rents offers maintenance tips

When it comes to maintenance and repair of wood furniture, what really matters is what type of wood furniture you have. At Marquee Rents, we have furniture that is painted with latex, so when we get nicks and scrapes, we can sand and repaint. We have formal wood bars that are walnut and we try to keep those in good shape.

Our hand-built Vineyard furniture, however, is a different story. We deliberately picked lumber with knots in it already, so it has character and when we stain it, you see that. We use an oil-based stain with a shellac finish and then I do a wax finish on it for a more rustic look. On that line of wood furniture, we don’t mind if it gets roughed up. We sand down large gouges, put stain down, re-shellac it, rub wax on it and it is right back out the door. When we designed the furniture with Narcy Martinez, who is the creative director at Marquee Rents, we came up with that system, so that it is easy to maintain.

With wood furniture, you should address any water stains as soon as possible. Make sure to remove the water from the table and dry it as soon as you can, and then plan to repair it right away. If you have a big water stain and it is left too long, it will leave a mark.

For water stains, there is a process I use on our Vineyard furniture. I thin down the shellac with denatured alcohol, which is a solvent usually used to remove shellac. As soon as I can get to it, I saturate the finish with the alcohol and I let the liquid-soaked rag sit on the wood for several minutes. Then I let it dry to the touch. As it dries, the condensation is released from the water stain. Then you put the new finish on.

When you saturate the area with the alcohol, you want it to be warm outside, preferably above 60 degrees. When the wood is dry to the touch, I roll on the shellac. Within an hour or two, you should not see the water stain at all.

If you have several tables to do and you plan on using at least a quart of shellac, my advice would be to put the shellac in a paint tray and apply it with a sponge roller. I would use a brush to just repair spots, but not for the whole table. Since the shellac dries so quickly, you will see the brush marks. When finished, let the shellac cure for at least 24 to 48 hours. Shellac may be expensive, but it’s convenient. You don’t need a spray booth on site to work with it.

The correct way to fix scratches and gouges in wood is determined based on the level of the damage and the type of furniture that was damaged. For formal items, scratches and dings stand out. You have to determine what the customer is going to expect, so the formal items require the most maintenance while rustic items can have more character.

However, when a gouge is 2 in. deep, that’s a problem. If I know the furniture is compromised to the point where I can’t do a repair, I’ll replace a board. However, that’s also expensive, so another consideration is where the damage is. If the gouge is not obvious
to the customer, I can sand it down and repaint.

If you have a lot of wood furniture in your inventory, I would recommend having one person designated to maintain the furniture. Also, set up a servicing schedule and ask the manufacturer to train a person in the warehouse on maintenance. Make sure the same maintenance routine is followed by everyone, otherwise, it can turn into a free for all. If someone puts oil on the furniture and the second person tries to re-coat it with shellac, that’s a mess.

Also, talk to your delivery and installation crew. As our general manager, Will Holditch, says, “Rule No. 1 is preventative maintenance. Have the right carts, straps, furniture pads and wrapping. Taking care of it when delivering it and picking it up will prevent 90 percent of the problem.”

For general maintenance on wood, take a cue from the current finish on the furniture and make sure you know what the finish of the furniture is first. For instance, on our shellac, we use Murphy’s oil soap. If you’re looking at lacquered furniture, you will want to use polish. I wouldn’t use oils unless you have a furniture piece that has an oil finish, like a teak piece. You don’t want to put oil on shellac. If you are working with older antique furniture, that can be different. Some of that is oil-rubbed. Also, follow manufacturer instructions for the piece of furniture. That’s where you’ll get the best information.

Before you decide to invest or remake items you may already have, make sure to find someone who has a lot of experience with wood furniture and learn from them.

Fred Rojas is a custom carpenter at Marquee Rents, Austin, Texas. He can be reached at 512-491-7368 or