Do It Yourself: Woodwork repairs without the sanding

Q. The woodwork in our house is almost 30 years old and has a lot of nicks. I’d like to repair the nicks without having to sand each piece. Any suggestions?

A. You can fix nicks in wood without a lot of sanding – sometimes with no sanding – but a lot depends on the color of the wood finish and the number of defects.

If the wood has a stained, wood-tone finish, there is a good chance you can fill nicks and some scratches with Minwax Blend-Fil pencils. These ready-to-use color sticks are made of putty in a variety of wood-tone colors.

If your wood is finished with a Minwax stain and you know the color, you can find putty sticks to match that color by consulting a chart at the Minwax Internet site (visit www.minwax.com, then click on Maintenance and Repair, then on Blend-Fil pencils; click on Colors to find the chart).

Even if you haven’t used a Minwax stain, there is likely to be a Blend-Fil color that will be a reasonable match.

To use a putty stick, simply rub it on the nick until the cavity is filled; smooth it by rubbing with a soft cloth. Smears or excess putty can be removed with mineral spirits (paint thinner).

If your woodwork is painted instead of wood-toned, you’ll need a different approach, but you can still minimize sanding. I’d use vinyl spackling compound, which can be bought at any home center in small plastic tubs.

Use a clean putty knife to apply a little of the compound to each nick. Wipe the knife blade frequently to avoid applying too much compound. Let dry thoroughly, then sand smooth with fine sandpaper.

Vinyl spackling compound is easy to sand, but makes a lot of dust, so put newspapers or a plastic sheet under the work area. When you have smoothed the surface, you will have to prime and repaint it.

Q. I plan to do some indoor and outdoor painting this fall, and have decided on the colors. But I’m confused about the various sheens I see in paint stores. How should I select the best sheens for different surfaces?

A. You are right to give the sheen the importance it deserves. There are some basic patterns, although your personal taste should be the deciding factor.

The typical paint sheens available, in descending order of their gloss, are: gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell and flat.

One rule of thumb is that the more gloss paint has, the easier it will be to clean, although some manufacturers have made easy-to-clean paints with less glossy finishes. Glossier sheens are also generally considered more durable than flatter ones.

Another rule of thumb is that the less sheen a paint has, the better it will be at concealing defects such as rough surfaces. The latter is because flatter paints reflect less light to highlight defects.

Gloss paint is often used on trim, some furniture including cabinets, doors and so forth.

Semi-gloss has many of the same uses as gloss, and is sometimes used for walls in rooms that might need regular cleaning, such as kitchens, bathrooms and children’s rooms.

Siding is often painted with satin or flat paint, because of the ability of these lower sheens to help hide defects.

Eggshell, which has a very low luster, is usually used indoors and is a good choice for walls.

Flat is frequently used on ceilings and many walls where a muted effect is wanted.

Q. We collected a number of bumper stickers in our travels referring to various places we have visited. We like to attach them to the inside of our garage door. Some won’t stick well. What kind of adhesive do you suggest that will hold them up but not harm the stickers?

A. It’s hard to predict how an adhesive will perform on top of the adhesive that is already on the stickers. Maybe you should use thumbtacks or tape to attach the stickers. If you think adhesive is needed, you might try one of the 3M spray-on adhesives. There are several varieties; check home centers or the Internet for details.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.

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