Q: I have plastic tiles on my kitchen walls and now plan to remove them. The walls underneath are plaster. Is there way to remove the adhesive or cement from the plaster?

A: After the tiles themselves have been removed by chipping and prying with a wide-blade stiff putty knife or similar scraper, remove the adhesive by scraping and sanding with coarse paper - preferably with a disk or belt sander. There are various types of adhesive that have been used over the years, and I cannot say for sure what type of solvent would help soften or dissolve the cement, but since most of a these solvents are highly flammable, I doubt if this is a suitable solution. Howere, many of the old cements will soften under mild heat - from a heat lamp, for example - so you might want to try this method of speeding the work. But don't use a torch or other open flame - it's too dangerous.

Q: I have a lovely old handmade wood cabinet that has been stained and given a beautiful oil finish. However, some kind of puttylike filler was used in the nail holes, and this shows through as white and unsightly. It will not darken with stain or oil. Is there any way to darken this filler so the spots will blend with rest of the finish?

A: Most patching materials used for filling holes, as well as all putty compounds, will not take stain. That is why they are always colored ahead of time to match the final shade of the stain that will be use. It would be almost impossible to color these spots now. The only solution would be to dig out the putty in each hole - if it is putty, it is still reasonably soft - then replace with a colored wood plastic that matches the stained finish (you can buy these at most paint stores). The spots that are filled might then need some smoothing (with fine steel woll) and would then be dull. This means more of the original finish would have to be applied. Since it is difficult to just finish thiy spots, you will have to give the entire piece at least one coat of the finish it now has to make everthing blend.