Don't give up on wood furniture when the surface becomes damaged. No matter what the imperfection - scrapes, scratches, stains - chances are there's a remedy. Most are surprisingly simple too.

Correcting marks and stainsHeat, water, ink and acid can leave marks and stains on fine veneer surfae that show up as white rings, patches or dark water marks. Surface marks can be removed without damaging the finish, but deeper ones may need refinishing.

- First, try commercial furniture cleaners. If these don't work, rub the spots with cigarette lighter fluid applied to a clean, soft cloth.

- For water spots that you cannot remove with these methods, try rubbing with cigarette ash and lemon juice. Or, rub with a mixture of rottenstone (a powder used for polishing metals) and light oil.

- Treat minor cigarette burns using rottenstone the same way.

- Remove superficial ink or acid stains by rubbing the discolored area lightly with extra-fine steel wool, abrasive paper, pumice or rottenstone.

Caution: Before attemption to remove stain from a fine finish, test the removal method on a small concealed area.

Correcting minor defects

- Hairline scratches can be easily camouflaged with a wax-like tinted touch-up stick. On dark-colored surfaces, apply iodine with an India pen to conceal scratches.

Small dents can be fixed with water or steam. Moisture - sprinkled water or steam from an iron on a damp cloth - can make wood expand to fill a dent.

- For small abrasions on a varnished surface, brush turpentine around the damaged area. The turpentine liquifies the varnish, which then flows into the scratch and hardens. The same technique, but with lacquer thinner rather than turpentine, can be used on a lacquered surface.

- A common imperfection on varnished wood is checking - an irregular pattern of tiny surface cracks. Scrub the area with a stiff brush and mild detergent suds. Wipe and let dry, then rub in a solution of 2 parts turpentine, 3 parts varnish and 4 parts boiled linseed oil. If all of the cracks have not disappeared when the area is dry, repeat the process.

Correcting deep scrapes and scratches

To fix a deep gouge, clean out the damaged area and fill the cavity with wood putty, tinted with dry pigment. Let the putty dry and then apply a layer of stick shellac - available in a variety of colors at hardware and paint stores. If you cannot find exactly the color you need, blend several sticks together by heating them over a gas or alcohol flame.

Heat the stick shellac with a soldering iron until the shellac is soft enough to flow into the crack, then smooth it using a spatula. Finally, rub down the repair with a felt pad or extra-find steel wool until the patch is level with the surrounding surface.

Patching veneer

On veneered furniture with a large damaged area, it may be necessary to cut out the damaged portion and replace it with a matching piece. Veneer squares suitable for patching are available from woodworking supply houses.

1. Tape tracing paper over the damaged veneer, leaving one side of the paper untaped. Trace the outline of the break.

2. Slip a piece of patching veneer under the tracing paper, matching its grain to the surface.

3. Hold the piece down. Use a sharp utility knife to cut through the damaged veneer to the base wood underneath. Cut just outside the traced line.

4. Remove the tracing paper and patch. Pry up the damaged veneer and sand the base wood clean. Test-fit the patch.

5. Apply a film of glue to the base wood. Dampen the patch so that it will not absorb all the glue.

6. Carefully press the patch into place. Cover with wax paper and a wood block, and clamp or lay a sandbag or other heavy weight over it. Let dry overnight.

Patching solid wood

1. Draw and cut a cardboard template, or pattern large enough to extend beyond the damaged area on all sides. Odd-shaped patches are best because they blend better into the surface pattern.

2. Trace the outline of the template over the damaged surface.

3. Use a chisel to hollow out the area into which the patch will be glued about half an inch deep just inside the outline.

4. Trace the template outline on the patch wood. Be sure the grain will run parallel.

5. Cut the patch with a saw. If it is slightly too large, sand it to fit; if small, cut another patch and glue it down. Fill any hairline crevices with wood putty and refinish the surface.