Trade secret – the best tool in the workshop is… the iron

Trade secret – the best tool in the workshop is… the iron

It is a little known fact that the best tool for sorting out the inevitable dents and dings that come from working with delicate components is the humble iron. It is impossible to count the number of times this simple device has saved a maker or student at Rowden from having to reprofile a piece of wood or even, heaven forbid, from having to make a whole new component.

As you probably know, wood grain under the microscope looks like a long hollow tube, not least because that is what it is. These tiny tubes hold little more than air in a piece of dry timber and so can easily be crushed by dropping the wood or hitting it with a blunt instrument (not to be recommended!) Lucky for us, crushing the grain doesn’t necessarily mean it has been damaged. It is not the same as if you cut through the grain with a knife, blade or chisel for example.

How to…

Because the grain is not damaged but simply flattened, it can be encouraged back to its original shape with the simple application of steam. Saturate a small area of linen cloth with water and lay over the dent, get the iron up to its hottest temperature and apply to the cloth, letting the heat of the iron convert the water in the cloth into steam. The steam blows out from under the iron and forces itself through the grain, blowing it open and filling it back up (or at least close to) its original dimensions. Dent no more!

Nine times out of ten, what would have been a noticeable blemish on a perfect piece of wood has been eradicated. All that is left is a lot of raised grain at and around the area where the dent was, and this can be easily abraded away. Job done.

We recently saw an example where a screw had come through the front of a drawer. Steam the hole, drop in some glue from the back, clamp down the surface until the glue dries and “Hey presto” no more hole.

Irons… too good for shirts!

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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