Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

A shade more glycerin

Q: I just obtained two small table lamps made of burl and the lampshades are of what appears to be birdseye maple veneer. The veneer is fabric backed and very brittle. As a result there are some small voids and cracks in each shade. I plan to back the voids with wood putty and then use a wood stain. This won’t entirely correct the problem but do you have any suggestions for application? Moreover will glycerin help to restore some of the suppleness and help avoid future cracks?
A: Glycerin may help restore some suppleness, and may even help slow the cracking, but once you put it on, you really can’t do anything else. In other words, glycerin will prevent the stain you plan on using from taking evenly, and stain will prevent the glycerin from being absorbed. You may have to choose one or the other.
To be honest, I don’t understand why you want to stain the shade veneers, but if you do, you’ll have to clean and sand them first. Most household goods develop of thin coating of airborne oils, and while they look clean, are not. Raw wood will simply absorb such oils. Either way, trying to stain other than raw, clean, sanded wood can result in problems.
For what it is worth, the cracking is almost certainly a function of the heat and attendant dryness coming from the bulb behind the lamp shade. Replacing the bulbs with cool to the touch compact fluorescent bulbs will help eliminate much of the heat and may prolong the life of the shade.