Repairing Cracking and Crazing Furniture Finishes

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Cracking and Crazing Wood Finishes Can Sometimes be Repaired

The terms “cracking” and “crazing” are often interchangeable. Both refer to a common problem that can occur with the finish of wood furniture. The best way to describe cracking and crazing is to compare it to how a broken mirror or piece of glass might look if was hit with something hard or if dropped on the floor. Some describe cracking and crazing on wood finish as looking like a spider web inside of the finish or like the segmented skin that you might see on an alligator. In most situations, cracking and crazing occur when the furniture finish has been exposed to one of several conditions of if the finish was mixed or applied incorrectly.

What Causes Cracking and Crazing on wood finish?

The most common cause of cracking and crazing is due to fluctuations in temperature. When a piece of furniture is kept in room that frequently gets very cold and then very hot during a relatively short period of time it is more susceptible to this problem.

Other common causes include:

  • The finish was applied with coats that were too thick.
  • One coat of finish was not allowed to dry properly before a second coat was applied on top of it.
  • Different types or quality of finishes were applied on top of each other.
  • The original coat of finish did not adhere properly to the underlying wood.
  • The finish is very old.
  • The furniture has been exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

Should Anything be Done about Cracking and Crazing?

Every situation should be evaluated independently. If you own a piece of antique furniture that is valuable, you may want to leave the finish alone and not try to fix it. Valuable antiques should be appraised before attempting any type of repair work on the original finish. In some situations, the removal of cracking and crazing can devalue the furniture.

On the other hand, if the piece of furniture is not a valuable antique and you would prefer that the finish not have the appearance of cracking or crazing, you can try reamalgamation. This is the process of applying a solvent to smooth out the damaged finish.

Reamalgamation

Before attempting reamalgamation, you need to realize that using this technique to repair the finish on your furniture takes quite a bit of skill. Attempt it only if you feel comfortable using a substance that can potentially damage or remove the finish if used incorrectly.

Reamalgmation involves applying amalgamator, which is a combination of solvents, to the finish using a pad. The solvent causes the finish to soften, and rubbing the solvent with the pad encourages the finish to redistribute into a smooth texture. When the process is done correctly, the outcome can be a finish that looks like new.

Fixing cracking and crazing is easier with some wood finishes than others. This problem can usually be fixed when the finish is shellac or lacquer, but repairing cracking or crazing varnish is usually more difficult if not impossible. In the worst case scenario, the problem must be fixed by completely refinishing the piece of furniture.




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