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How to Repair Furniture with a Crocodile Finish

Sal Marco

A crocodile finish, also known as an alligatored finish or crazing, has tiny cracks and ridges that appear on some furniture surfaces. Crazing typically hides the natural beauty of the furniture's wood under small, irregularly shaped cracks that cross over each other. Extensive exposure to heat and sunlight causes the wood of this furniture to dry out and contract, leaving behind a rough, textured finish. Reviving and restoring the finish is possible without the need to strip and refinish the furniture.

  1. Arrange a thick layer of newspapers under the furniture in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

  2. Mix a quart of warm water and a teaspoon of dish detergent in a small bucket. Fill a second bucket or container with clean, warm water. Dip a piece of cheesecloth into the detergent and water. Wring out the cheesecloth until it is only slightly damp. Scrub the crazed furniture surface. Rinse the cheesecloth frequently in the bucket of plain water. Dry the surface thoroughly with a microfiber cloth.

  3. Pour denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner into a glass jar that will be wide enough to accommodate a paintbrush. Use denatured alcohol if the furniture's finish is shellac or lacquer thinner if the finish is lacquer.

  4. Dip the paintbrush into the appropriate solvent. Apply the solvent following the wood grain in light, even strokes until the entire surface is covered with the appropriate solvent. Wait five minutes and apply a second light coat of solvent. Wait five minutes and apply a third coat of solvent.

  5. Observe the finish for changes in texture and line filling. If no changes occur after 10 minutes, apply a fourth coat of solvent. Wait five minutes and examine the finish again. Continue this until you see a change in the finish. Some finishes might require up to 10 light coats of solvent before noticeable changes appear. Allow the finish to dry for four to six hours after the crazing lines no longer are noticeable. The surface is thoroughly dry when it does not have a tacky feel. Check for surface drying on a hidden area of the furniture to avoid leaving fingerprints.

  6. Dip a piece of #0000 steel wool into furniture paste wax. Follow the direction of the wood grain while rubbing the paste wax into the surface. Allow the wax to dry to a white haze. Buff the wax off the furniture's surface with a soft rag.