View Full Version : Repairing my goof-ups - on Red Alder Plaques

Bill Stearns
05-04-2014, 5:36 PM
Hi All -
Doesn't happen often - but, often enough. I will mess up engraving a photo on one of JDS' Red Alder Plaques. Would like to re-use the same plaque over again. I have tried planning and sanding the wood, then using various products in attempts to bring back the original finish. i.e Watco clear Lacquer/liquid - Rust-Oleum Lacquer spray - and Helmsman Spar Urethane - oh, and I've used a "wood sealer" too. Still, the results are splotchy! - unusable for anything but test-runs and firewood. I'm not overly knowledgeable 'bout woods, so can use your advice and ideas to try.
Have a second dilemma. Did a beautiful family tree on this same alder - first time I have ever embedded birthstones into a plaque. Careful as I was, after all the work, a smidgen of super glue got on the wood. Thought I had wiped it clean, but my customer upon receiving it (in another state) said she can see the glue/smudge at the right angle and in the right light. Ran a test to see what might remove it: Goof-Off, rubbing alcohol, warm vinegar, even cooking oil. (as sugg on Google.) - nothing works. Any ideas for me?

Thanks in advance.

Glen Monaghan
05-04-2014, 5:57 PM
Acetone (main ingredient in nail polish remover, more pure stuff available at hardware stores, most pure stuff from chemical supply houses, probably most expensive format sold as super glue remover at hobby shops) dissolves and removes CYA (superglue). Might also affect the finish on your plaque though...

Mike Null
05-05-2014, 7:45 AM
With the super glue, very carefully scrape it off with a small sharp chisel. Be ready to do a little French polish work to smooth it out.

As for the others, don't waste your time.

Keith Upton
05-05-2014, 8:08 AM
The superglue is going to be hard to get off it any of it worked it's way down into the wood grain. Just about anything that is going to remove the superglue is going to adversely effect the finish underneath. Good luck with that!

David Somers
05-05-2014, 10:45 AM

Glen's comment that acetone will remove Cyanoacrylic (superglues) is right on.
But Mike's comment about not wasting your time is unfortunately true as well.
Unless the superglue was a very thick variety it is going to soak down into the wood further than you think. And the acetone, while it will dissolve and remove the glue, is not likely to help with any that has gone down into the wood, or moved laterally through the wood under any existing finish. You are going to end up removing a lot more finish and wood than you think you need to in order to go down deep enough and wide enough to remove the glue to the point where it doesnt affect the appearance of the wood.

CA is wonderful stuff and as a woodturner I use it all the time. But it is miserable to deal with if you are not careful how you apply it and handle it. By the way....a woodturner will always keep a container of acetone within arms length of the lathe at all times. Dragging your 500lb lathe over to the cabinet where the glue is stored because you inadvertantly glued your hand to the lathe is......well......annoying??? <grin> Please don't ask how I know about that.


Bill Stearns
05-05-2014, 4:20 PM
Hey All -
Thanks for your input as to how I might suggest my customer remove superglue residue from a "family tree" plaque I sent to her. This customer (in another state) insisted that I embed birthstones in her plaque - next to each name. (was the very first time I tried doing this.) Fact is: she is delighted with the plaque; was just commenting that 'little bit of residue seemed to show in certain light.) - so, over all, a happy customer, no worries. (Next time I will mask off the area in which I insert each stone 'case glue squishes out.)
Now - 'bout my other issue: how to re-stain a JDS alder plaque so I can reuse it? - after planning and sanding. (details in my earlier post.) - would really be money-saving if I could. Thanks 'gain.


David Somers
05-05-2014, 4:46 PM

Regarding the Birthstones. A couple of thoughts. One would be to use a dab of the cement that is used to adhere glass to wood and metal. It gets used by wood turners to fix the bowl of a wine glass to a turned wooden stem for example. It is quite thick and not likely to escape like CA Glue. Apply it with the tip of a tooth pick. It is VERY durable and long lasting and has good give unlike CA which is pretty brittle.

Or, if you really want to use CA glue, consider using a birthstone that is mounted on a post, as in for an earing. Drill a small hole that is just big enough for the post, and then widen the top of the hole to accommodate the stone. Put a touch of CA in the post hole and then set the stone with that. The CA is very unlikely to escape that way.

I also tend to lay down masking or painters tape and press it in place firmly before using CA. Then I will drill my holes or cut what is needed. Helps keep it off the surrounding surface.

Regarding your alder plaque. When you say the wood is splotchy the second time around....Do you meant the surface of the finish is splotchy....has changes in texture or smoothness? Or do you mean the color of the wood shows up as splotchy with noticeable color variations after the finish is applied?
Have you used anything like a finish stripper or other chemicals on the old finish? Any chance you are getting something on your hands before touching the bare wood? For example, for a while in HI I would protect my lathe bed with a very thin and light coat of oil. I stopped when I realized the trouble I was having with my finishes was tied to picking up a bit of that oil on my fingers and transferring it to the wood on the lathe. Sweat was also an issue.
Have you asked JDS what they finish the wood with originally?


Bill Stearns
05-05-2014, 7:26 PM
Hi again -
My asking 'bout my "family tree" (smudge of glue showing 'round the birthstones problem) I should've posted a photo to start with; to show you how I handled the job. First off, took me 'while to find a source for simulated stones that were "flat" on the bottom; finally did.) I lasered a shallow hole were the stones were to be inset; squeezed in a tiny drop of superglue. Problem occurred when I pressed the stones into place. Easy way to solve this in the future will be to mask off the area where the stones go. Duh! live 'n learn. As to my other issue, maybe I can clarify the problem I'm having. I'll engrave a photo into a pre-finished JDS alder plaque - those cases where the photo didn't turn out nice, I've tried planning and sanding the plaque - I simply want to reapply some sort of close-to-the original finish so I can use the plaque over again. I have tried sealer, polyurethanes, and lacquers but cannot achieve a nice finish. (it appears splotchy; yes with notable color variations as you said - and, no, no oil on my hands. So, why on earth can't I simply re-finish these plaques? Your sugg I call JDS - I will. Thanks


Matt McCoy
05-05-2014, 8:48 PM
Bill: I like to use E6000. It is strong, but remains somewhat pliable and can usually be peeled off a smooth finish.

There is a whole dark art to finishing wood which requires a lot of time and work. This is especially true of piano-type finishes and can be quite the process to save a few pieces. I would scrap them or use as test pieces/jigs.

Bill Cunningham
05-06-2014, 9:01 AM
I have had to refinish a few plaques due to screwups. Putting them through the plane shaving a tiny bit at a time, sanding, and finishing with clear spray (rattle can) lacquer did the trick. Seems to work better on maple than alder. When it doesn't work, I just put that plaque away and save it for a time a customer wants a metal plate on a wooden plaque or a full photo engraved plaque.

Bill Stearns
05-06-2014, 9:38 AM
Bill C & All -

Try as I have, my re-finishing JDS's alder plaques (when errors are made) never looks quite right - so, I'll do what you suggested: save 'em for those plaques requiring mounted plates. (BTW Bill, my using titanium oil based white paint on my granite tiles, as you suggested earlier, has been a game-changer! Resulting in much happier customers! Can't thank you enough.) As for that other issue - superglue residue on the "family tree" I sent to a customer: she e-mailed today to say that she used nail polish remover with a Q-tip, gently wiped 'round the area, then applied Liquid Gold furniture polish afterwards! ( I was sure this would ruin the finish, but apparently it didn't!) Her e-mail ended with: "I wish you the best of luck in the future and hope this experience will lead to more business for you. Should I need engraving services in the future, you are the first person I will contact." Problem solved! Hope you all have an incredible day!


Bill Cunningham
05-06-2014, 10:01 AM
Glad your finding the oil paint useful.. I can't take credit for it though, it's an old trick that's been around for years.. I probably picked it up here myself way back when I started.. It's also nice to get positive customer feed back, particularly when you think you have screwed up..ha..

Keith Upton
05-06-2014, 10:31 AM
she e-mailed today to say that she used nail polish remover with a Q-tip, gently wiped 'round the area, then applied Liquid Gold furniture polish afterwards! ( I was sure this would ruin the finish, but apparently it didn't!) Her e-mail ended with: "I wish you the best of luck in the future and hope this experience will lead to more business for you. Should I need engraving services in the future, you are the first person I will contact." Problem solved! Hope you all have an incredible day!


Bill, make sure to send her a little engraved thank you card to solidify her loyalty to you. Since this order could have ended up as a bad experience for her, let her know that you not only appreciate the business, but her faith in your future work.

Mike Null
05-06-2014, 11:42 AM

Just to elaborate a bit on repairing plaques.

If they are scratched I will use 600 grit sand paper to remove the scratch. then i begin applying a shellac-dna mix to the area with a lint free rag. A drop of mineral oil on the rag helps keep it from binding.

Once I have a high gloss finish I begin to knock it down to match the finish of the plaque. Four 0 steel wool or similar will work. Then wax the entire plaque.

I scrap plaques that are mis-engraved or if they can be used with a metal plate I will save them but, for example, I have none on hand now.