How to Sand Wood Appliqués

By Bernie Bottens | Posted: 02/21/2013 10:00AM


Bernie Bottens how to finish wood The antique wood singer sewing machine project I've been working on has had many challenges dealing with minor defects found in the case, with much of that damage caused by water. So, I've spent a good deal of my time handling that and re-gluing veneer that lost its grip around the edges of the machine cabinet.

The two cases that make up the sides of the cabinet are still a concern to me and will continue to be so until I see how the wipe stain applies to these areas. The outside ends of these cases have beautiful appliqués on them. 

I fear sanding up against those appliqués. As you know, the sand paper loses its bite as it comes up against something like that and the wood is very difficult to scratch. The results become quite clear when the wipe stain is applied. A halo appears that is the result of uneven sanding. I used maroon Scotch-Brite to sand those areas. My hope is that the Scotch-Brite will get in the cracks where I want it to go. Stay tuned. These areas may be a classic opportunity to use a glaze to blend out those halos. Glazing the case may be necessary anyway to give it more of the original antique look.

Now to the six drawer boxes. They too have a beautiful appliqué around the drawer pull. First, an appliqué was glued to the drawer front. Then, a rosette-style cutter was used to create a doughnut-shaped recess in the drawer front with a center uprising onto which a small white oak pull was glued. Again, the problem was getting all of that detail sanded well. The soreness in my left thumb and right index finger tip attest to my efforts. Finger sanding wears out your digits!

I wish that I had a good photo of the drawer fronts to show you. For now, take a look at the one picture of the full case and I think that you will see what I mean. It’s a neat bit of woodworking! I’ll take more pictures when I reassemble the case.

My buddy Dave has the project from this point on. He will apply the stain and lacquer. As is my custom, this will include M.L. Campbell’s DuraVar. I expect to see the work come out of his shop in a week or so. Then it will be my job to reassemble everything and take some good photos of the finished product to share with you.

Until next time…spray on!


About the Author

Bernie Bottens

Bernie Bottens ( and teaches on the subject of wood and wood finishing in industrial woodworking. He and his wife, Carol, live in Vancouver, WA. Bernie has been teaching wood finishing to shop owners, shop foremen, spray technicians and finishers all over Oregon, southwest Washington, and northern California for the past 9 years. Prior to that, he owned his own cabinet shop. His shop credentials include apprenticing and becoming a journeyman exhibit builder. Before that he taught in the public schools for 20 years. Bernie is the owner of Kapellmeister Enterprises, Inc. and Kap Coatings Consulting. Reach him at

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Georgia  |  June, 06, 2013 at 08:26 AM

I've run into similar problems when sanding relief carvings. It's difficult to get into all the little crannies. I think that micro sanding mops in a rotary tool (Foredom or Dremel) might be the answer.

Bernie Bottens    
Vancouver, WA  |  June, 06, 2013 at 09:04 AM

Jim, It's tough getting in all those little places. I agree with your trying the Dremel "Scotchbrite" - type attachments. If it's that small, do you have a good pair of magnifying glasses so that you can really see what you are doing? That too might be a good investment. Better to see how much you are removing than to loose too much detail in the process. Best regards, Bernie Bottens


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