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Dent[edit | edit source]

A dent is a small hollow mark in the surface of something, caused by pressure or by being hit (Cambridge Dictionary, 2015). [1] Dents can occur in objects made of various metal materials: sheet metal, aluminum, steel, etc. and also objects of many types of wood, paper, plastic, glass, and other materials (Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, 2015). [2]

example of dent in a metal car door (Flickr) [3]

Related Terms[edit | edit source]

Synonyms in English[edit | edit source]

hollow, indentation, impression, dimple, cavity, lump, ding, prick, gouge (damage)

Translation[edit | edit source]

English Dent
French Bosse
Spanish Abolladura
Dutch Deuk
German Dell
Chinese (Traditional) 凹痕

Discussion[edit | edit source]

The first known use of the word dent was in 1565. It comes from the Latin word dent or dens (Cambridge Dictionary, 2015). [4] Use this word when referring to damage to an object that is not a puncture, but merely an indentation on its surface.

The word dent is used in various scholarly publications, however it is not found in the Getty's Art & Architecture Thesaurus. This may because the word dent is not preferred or is not used heavily anymore.

Many times objects receive dents because of careless moving or treatment of the object. Furniture should be moved carefully, paintings touched with care, and metals susceptible to denting should be managed accordingly (Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute, 2015). [5]

Taking dents out of objects should be a collaborative decision between the curator and the conservator. Sometimes the dents may be an important part of the objects history and the curator would decide not to remove them. If you want to remove the dents here are some strategies for two types of matierials:

Taking dents out of a steel door[edit | edit source]

1. sand the dented area down to bare metal with 150 grit sandpaper. Be sure to remove paint from deep crevices
2. clean and degrease sanded area with a soft, clean cloth dampened with either acetone or rubbing alcohol
3. squeeze out a bead of hardener beside the mound of auto body filler. Blend the two with a putty knife
4. Use a 6-in wide plastic spreader to apply filler to the dent. Be sure to slightly overfill the area
5. smooth the patch first with 80 grit sandpaper on a rubber sanding block, then switch to 150 grit sandpaper
6. mask off the repair area with sheets of newspaper, then apply two light coats of ruse inhibiting primer
7. wrap 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper around a sponge, dip it into water and sand the patch until it is glassy smooth
8. brush on two light coats of high quality enamel trim paint allowing the paint to completely dry between coats [6]

Removing dents from paper[edit | edit source]

"ease out a dent with moisture applied from within, split the cover paper and fill dents with a plaster compound of paper-mache, chalk, zinc and parchment size, or actually cut out neighboring areas and push out dents" (Van der Reyden, 1986, pg 7). [7]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). Dent. Retrieved from:
  2. Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (2015). Care of Acrylic Paintings. Retrieved from:
  3. Flickr Photo (2006). Flickr user, Nick. Retrieved from:
  4. Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). Dent. Retrieved from:
  5. Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute (2015). Moving, Packing, and Shipping Furniture. Retrieved from:
  6. This Old House. (2015) New Life for a Dented Door. Retrieved from:,,216019,00.html
  7. Van der Reyden (1986). The History, Technology and Care of Globes: Case Study on the Technology and Conservation Treatment of Two Nineteenth Century Time Globes. The Institute of Paper Conservation: Oxford University Press.

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