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