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Q & A: Pencil Mark Cleanup


Q & A: Pencil Mark Cleanup


How do I get the pencil marks off my oak plywood bookcase? I tried using an eraser, but that didn’t get down into the open grain.When I tried sanding it out I ended up erasing the paper-thin veneer instead! I don’t want to sand anymore and run the risk of ruining the whole piece. Is there a way out of this?


The solution to your dilemma came by accident one day as I was making color samples for a project. I labeled each piece of wood with a pencil before testing the finish recipes. On the sample that used shellac as a sealer, I noticed the pencil marks disappeared as I brushed on the shellac. The denatured alcohol in the shellac is also a solvent for pencil lead!

Remove your pencil marks without abrasives using a white rag and denatured alcohol. The alcohol loosens the bond of the carbon-based pencil marks allowing the rag to pick up the suspension. Work in a well-ventilated area; wear rubber gloves and a respirator. Wet the rag with alcohol or, if there are a lot of pencil marks to erase, pour it right on the piece itself. Add a little elbow grease and rub away your troubles.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 1999, issue #77.

December 1999, issue #77

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