Reply by JAAune

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Posted on Refinishing an antique sewing machine table

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1798 posts in 2315 days

#1 posted 12-01-2012 12:27 AM

I just finished working on one of those last month but it was a complete repair and refinishing operation due to extensive damage.

If the veneer and finish on yours are still completely intact you can get away with less work. I’d suggest starting by cleaning everything with a dilute detergent solution. Blue Dawn dish soap, Simple Green and Murphy’s oilsoap are the three products I tend to use. Any one of them will usually do a good job of cleaning.

Don’t go overboard and soak everything with water while doing this. Go slowly and gently with dampened rags and/or a soft toothbrush. If using the toothbrush wipe the wood frequently with a dry rag to remove the loosened grime and prevent too much water from having a chance to soak into the wood. The last thing you want is to create problems with loose joints and curling veneers.

If more aggressive cleaning is needed denatured alcohol is often effective. Scrubbing the wood with alcohol and either green or grey ScotchBrite will usually remove the top layer of finish and leave the surface very clean. This technique is trickier though and can end up removing the finish completely or unevenly if done wrong. Practice in a safe place first.

For refinished work I prefer using shellac as the first coat of finish in case there is silicone contamination on the wood. I usually topcoat with precat lacquer but practically any finish will adhere to the shellac.

Here are the pictures of the one I did. It was stripped to bare wood (no sanding) before the veneer was either replaced or repaired (lots of minute curling and chipped edges). A number of loose joints needed repair too. The metal parts were spruced up with a combination of fresh paint, buffing with Simichrome and cleaning with Simple Green.

The new wood was stained to match the old and everything was topcoated with precat lacquer. The customer was not interested in authenticity and specified that it just look as good as possible.

-- See my work at and

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