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Remove a Dent From a Guitar Fretboard or Any Wooden Surface

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GwennyOh is into DIY mending. "Let's fix everything around us and make this world a better place," is her motto.


On Filling and Sanding a Fretboard or Other Wood

Sanding a filled guitar fretboard or any wood to a point of flush is a job not for the faint of heart. For this reason, it's best to avoid doing it by finding another fix. Though I was shown this trick while repairing a guitar fretboard, any dented wood can be repaired with the same method. Be sure that you aren't concerned with preserving any finish on your wood.

A Trick That Removes Dents or Reduces Their Intensity

Whether you have a dented fretboard, a wood panel, or an old table or dresser surface, this solution will help you out. Either it will fix your problem completely or will at least reduce its severity. There is, however, the potential for a dent to be so compacted that this method won't work. Also, if the wood grain is broken it may not work or may not help enough. Nonetheless, it's probably worth your effort to give it a try. This method should be used on real wood only.

What You'll Need

All you will need is water, a clean microfiber cloth, and a hot clothes iron set to its highest setting.

For a Guitar Fretboard

Before you begin, you will need to remove as many strings from your guitar as is necessary to have unimpeded access to the dented area.

  1. With your microfiber cloth quite damp but relatively well-wrung, place it on your fretboard. The cloth does not need to be folded.
  2. Angle your iron so that the heated metal edge (not the face) is touching the cloth. Rub it back and forth across only the dented area with firm but not intense pressure. At the same time, be sure to avoid getting close to the frets; stay as far away from them as possible. Only drag the iron back and forth for several seconds.
  3. If the first attempt doesn’t completely resolve the dent, go over it one more time. If you find it necessary to repeat the process, let the wood cool thoroughly in between. Don't get carried away—it can't be stressed enough to use discretion around frets.

If you feel compelled to do any sanding on the fretboard afterwards, leave it to dry for at least three days first.

"Fixing a Dented Fretboard" Tutorial Video

Here's a video to help you get a feel of how this process works.

For Other Wood

  1. Take your wet microfiber cloth and lay it out over the dent.
  2. Place the iron flat on the cloth and move it in circles over the dent. Work on it for approximately ten seconds.
  3. If the dent is not alleviated, go over it again.

That’s all there is to it. With some wood, doing this may raise the grain, which may require sanding. To sand the wood, it needs to be thoroughly dried first. At least three days of drying is recommended. If you do this on finished wood, you will most likely need to refinish it or touch it up.

"How to Repair a Dent in Wood" Tutorial Video

If the Iron Method Doesn’t Work

If the previous method doesn't work for you, and if you are working with a small dent, you can try filling it. However, you should maneuver with the hands of a skilled surgeon to try this. If you are not skilled with crafts, you may want to skip this suggestion.

You will need cyanoacrylate glue (henceforth referred to as CA glue), baking soda, and a selection of fine grit sandpapers (400, 600, 800, and 1000 grit).

Some CA glues are thin and run profusely; keep this in mind when selecting yours. Make sure that your work area is thoroughly ventilated, as cyanoacrylate can be hard on you, both lungs and head. The fretboard must be thoroughly dry. If you tried the previous method, let it dry for a few days before trying this.

  1. Apply CA glue thinly. While the glue is still wet, sprinkle it with a small amount of baking soda. You must apply the glue thinly, as filing through it and baking soda once dry is akin to working with stone.
  2. When the filler is dry, sand it. Begin with 400 grit sandpaper. Sand until the glue is flush with the surrounding area and smooth, but don’t dig into the wood's surface.
  3. Move up to 600 grit sandpaper to take out the scratchiness, but only go over it lightly.
  4. Move up to using 800 grit sandpaper; again, go over the area lightly.
  5. Move up to 1000 grit sandpaper and repeat the process. Once you are done with the 1000 grit sandpaper, your work is completed.

The reason for using various grits is that the first one levels but leaves scratches, and each successive grit removes more scratchiness. The final grit achieves an acceptable surface texture. Using a higher grit than 1000 is not necessary here.

Improving the Surface of Wood

The same methodology of ironing as previously mentioned can also be used to improve the surface of wood. With older wood or really, any wood, for a project that has a significant amount of flat surface area, consider doing as described below to enhance and stabilize it.

  1. Place a wet but wrung cloth over the wood and lightly iron it. Iron it for long enough to infuse it with heat, which is approximately ten seconds per area. Repeat on each flat face of the wood.
  2. Let it dry for three days or more in between.
  3. Then sand.

You can and should repeat this process a few times over. It takes the quirkiness out of wood, especially if it has been stored. It does so by alleviating tension unevenness within the wood.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 GwennyOh