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posted: 9/14/2012 5:13 AM

Tips for making repairs to marred table surface

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Table linens were designed to class up a plain table, but if you are using them to hide a damaged table surface, maybe it's time to make some repairs. Here are some of our favorite tips for cleaning up your tabletops and making them look presentable again.

Scratches are the most common problem, and they are easy enough to fix. A good general cleaner for your tabletops is mineral spirits paint thinner. It gets rid of grease, oil and wax that tend to build up on these flat, exposed surfaces. A light, oily polish is a good protector for everyday use.

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Check your hardware store for some "scratch pens." These come in a variety of wood-tone colors and are used like any other marker to fill and cover any small scratches. They also make filler pens for deeper scratches that work the same way but are made with wax or some other filler along with the stain. Home remedies include rubbing the meat of a pecan over the scratch to fill it or using a crayon in the right shade. Even shoe polish could be used in a bind.

Burns are a little harder to disguise. It's best if you can lightly sand out the burn and then use one of these fillers over the scar.

Water rings are another common problem, and are fairly easy to deal with. A little table salt and mineral oil, olive oil or even mayonnaise can be used to rub them away. This same method works on steam marks. Toothpaste is another abrasive that can be used.

Follow these with a good cleaning and some polish to keep your table protected. Keep trivets and coasters handy from now on, and use them. If your table gets a lot of rough usage, you can have a glass tabletop cut to fit it, and have permanent protection from now on. You still can use linens if you want to, but you will no longer HAVE to use them!

Here's a clever way to clean out your gutters

Rain is a real blessing, but too much rain can cause a lot of problems around your home. The best thing you can do for your house is install gutters around the roof line with downspouts to direct all that water away from the foundation. Of course, gutters get clogged, and you need to keep them cleaned out so water will drain efficiently. One clever way to clean them out in a hurry is with your water hose, a sprayer and an extension pole. Strap the hose to the pole with the sprayer directed downward so that you can lift up the hose and spray out the gutters without having to climb up a ladder to do it. It's quick and easy. Wear a waterproof hat!

Here's a way to cut through hard-to-get-to PVC pipe

There are lots of ways to cut through materials. You can use a knife or a saw, but have you ever tried to use a wire? A thin wire or even a heavy string can be used to cut through materials like PVC pipe. Just wrap the wire around the backside or underside of the pipe, with the ends on either side. Grab one end in each hand, and start pulling from one side to the other in a sawing motion. Just keep pulling it back and forth, and it will saw right through the pipe. It's a great way to cut through a pipe that is buried in the ground and not easily accessible without digging a large pit around it.

Super hints

• If you are using a wooden dowel to join two pieces of wood together, heat it in the oven just a little bit first to draw out some of the moisture and shrink it. When it absorbs the glue in the joint, it will swell again, and you'll have a super-tight fit.

• I love to cook and bring food to parties as gifts and when friends are in need. I have some great serving pieces, and I try to use them more than disposable pieces. All of my glass pieces are etched with my name. I just used stencils and etching creme, so my name appears on the bottom of each piece. I used my rotary engraving tool to put my name on the metal pieces. I usually get them back this way. Sometimes they even come with payback -- food in them!

• Reading glasses are a must for both of the Carrells these days. But if you need them and don't have any or can't find yours, try using the bottom of a thick glass as a magnifier. It actually works in a pinch!

Q. We had a small leak under our kitchen sink. It's fixed now, but the bottom of the cabinet soaked up too much water and is swollen and warped. I want to replace it. I can see how to get the old one out -- by cutting it into pieces -- but how am I supposed to get the new one into the cabinet because the center trim between the two doors is in the way?

A. You have two choices: You can remove the center support, or cut the flooring into two pieces and then reattach them once inside the cabinet. If you're not very good at woodworking, you might choose the latter in case your handiwork doesn't look very nice.

Q. I was wondering if you have any tips for cleaning old oil paintings. I have several, nothing that's worth a lot of money, but all are old and dusty. How can I clean them without doing any damage?

A. Check art-supply shops for oil-painting restorer. There are several brands, and they are made just for this purpose. They are easy to use, and they do quite a good job. It takes a while to complete, but you'll be happy with the results and probably surprised at how much better they look after a cleaning. Good luck!

Q. My kitchen cabinets need a facelift. But I'm on a budget and can't afford to paint them just yet. Right now I'd settle for just a good cleaning. They feel a little sticky, and seem to have a layer of dust all over them. What's the best way to get them really clean again?

A. Mineral spirits paint thinner is our first choice. It will get all of the airborne grease off. That's what's making your layer of dust stick to the surface. You may have to go over them a couple of times, but this probably will make a huge difference. You should do this once every few months to keep the grease from building up. Use caution and add ventilation when using this stuff. It is amazing, though. Who knows -- after cleaning them, you might decide they look like they've already been refinished. You could save a bundle!

Reader tips

• I had an oil stain on my basement wall -- don't ask. I used paint thinner to dissolve it but needed to find a material to absorb the oil overnight. I taped a large piece of plastic over the area, leaving it open at the top like a big pocket. I poured in some cornmeal and let it sit. I vacuumed it out the next day and removed the plastic. It worked!

• I use a tackle box to store my hardware. It has a lot of small bins, and I can store all of my hardware, sorted out, in these bins. I even have room in the bottom for some boxed and packaged hardware. It's also easy to take to wherever I'm working, as I don't have a workbench or workshop. I just store it on a shelf in the garage, and everything is easy to find that way. It holds quite a bit, too.

• I had a wooden leg on my dining-room table that had split. I was horrified when I discovered it. I got the wood glue out and put as much into the joint as I could, and then looked for some way to clamp it tight. I found a couple of worm gear hose clamps in the garage. I wrapped the leg with a shop rag and then applied the two clamps, one at the bottom and one at the top. I let it set overnight and then removed the clamps. They did a good job, and I dabbed a little touch-up stain on the sides, and it's OK now. It barely shows.

• Here's a crazy idea I came up with. I needed a wrench to remove a bolt from my lawn mower deck. I searched through my toolbox but couldn't find one to fit. I got the next-larger size and wedged a dime between the bolt and the inside of the wrench. This did the trick and allowed me to remove the nut and bolt. Maybe it will help you or your readers if they are in a bind like me.

• I was painting and ran out of paint thinner when it came time to clean my brush and pan. I grabbed a can of WD-40 and sprayed both until saturated. When I bought more paint thinner the next day and poured it into the pan to soak the brush, I was amazed at how quickly the paint came off. The WD-40 was just enough solvent to save them for their overnight stay without the thinner.

Shoptalk

• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop, and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of the many uses we have found for this stuff in and around the house. Some you may have tried, but hopefully, others will be new to you. Heck, you may have some clever uses that we didn't list. If so, let us know and we will add them to our list. We also will have it posted on our website at www.thesuperhandyman.com.

• One way to save on lighting bills is to turn off the lights when you leave a room. But if you are forgetful or others in your home don't care as much as you do, then using sensors to automatically turn lights off and on makes a lot of sense. Westek makes an indoor plug-in, motion-activated light control. This is perfect for table lights and other plug-in appliances. The 6-foot cord allows versatile placement, and the 25-foot range gives you lots of options. Check it out at Home Depot or online at www.homedepot.com.

• If you're into living the "green" life, take a second look at your toothbrush. It's probably plastic and non-biodegradable. But World Centric has one that is plant-based and compostable, not made from petroleum products. The Compostable Toothbrush comes with a compostable travel case, and if you can't recycle it yourself, you can send it back to them for recycling. Check it out at www.worldcentric.org.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at thesuperhandyman.com.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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