Need a little (Lot) of advise on refinish

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Forum topic by papadan posted 01-28-2017 06:46 AM 973 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3584 posts in 3517 days

01-28-2017 06:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource refurbishing traditional

I have this table that my father made in high school, 1950. His plane was lost over Nam in 61 and I don’t have many things of his. This table need restoring and I have no idea how to start. I have never done any kind of restoration or used any kind of stains before. I don’t even know what kind of wood this is, just that it has a dark walnut stain. It is signed on the bottom and I want to preserve that. TIA

12 replies so far

View Rich's profile


3668 posts in 738 days

#1 posted 01-28-2017 07:21 AM

I’d be on board with leave it as it is and remember him through it. It’s up to you though.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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3584 posts in 3517 days

#2 posted 01-28-2017 07:29 AM

Would you know of a product that would clean it up and shine it a little Rich?

View JCamp's profile


819 posts in 699 days

#3 posted 01-28-2017 11:23 AM

Hey papadan. I’ve used some of that Old English scratch cover that Walmart sells on random cabinets and tables. It’s more of a cheap easy fix tho. U might try posting ur table on the furniture makers forum. Those guys r very talented and could give u some good advice
You’ll need to make up in ur mind tho if u want to strip it all down and do a full redo or just a restoration

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Clarkie's profile


455 posts in 1990 days

#4 posted 01-28-2017 11:49 AM

Hey Papa, there is a product out by the name of “Restore”, it works very well on adding a nice patina and finish job. Follow the instructions and just put a coat of poly where the signature is to keep that and don’t bother to do any sanding under the top if that is where the signature is. Minwax manufactures the Restore and it can be found on the shelves at Homeless Depot. Have fun, make some dust.

View lew's profile


12329 posts in 3904 days

#5 posted 01-28-2017 02:00 PM

First, thank you for your Dad’s service and sacrifice for our country.

Second, that is an awesome table for a high school wood shop project. Your Dad was really talented.

As others have said, preserve his signature with a protective seal. Clear poly would probably be best for that. Then, decide if you want to strip/sand/finish or keep it as is. Which ever you decide, I’d love to see more pictures.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View OSU55's profile


1870 posts in 2138 days

#6 posted 01-28-2017 02:33 PM

There are a few products out there, Restore a Finish , Formbys Furniture Restore, that are probably what you want. It depends on what the finish is. These will dissolve varnish and cv, lacquer, etc. These products dissolve the old finish and move it around the surface, covering scratches and dings. Use steel wool dipped in the product and rub the surface. It leaves the patina intact. DO NOT use sandpaper – it will cut through the patina and screw up the patina and antique look. You could use some 600 grit or so to smooth over any bumps of old finish left, but i prefer to stay with steel wool and a rag and let the chemical work to smooth things out. After drying, the surface can be stained but absorption is reduced. A lot of the old color will be left. Shellac, lacquer, poly can be used to finish. Not sure how well wb finishes would adhere.

Ive done quite a bit of restore work over the years. These products are nasty, highly explosive and toxic mixes of acetone, toluene, and other high volatility chemicals. Use outside with the correct respirator and gloves that arent dissolved. It takes time but they do work. Good luck!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5097 posts in 2642 days

#7 posted 01-28-2017 02:37 PM

I, too, want to add my thanks and condolences for your fathers service and sacrifice. As for the table, is there any chance he finished it with shellac? If so, refreshing the finish could be very easy. (only a slight chance, but thought I would ask).

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


3668 posts in 738 days

#8 posted 01-28-2017 04:35 PM

Would you know of a product that would clean it up and shine it a little Rich?

- papadan

Just to protect it as-is, some good wax would be a place to start. If there’s a lot of grime, a white synthetic abrasive pad will clean it without damaging the surface. Test on a non-visible spot first of course.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3517 days

#9 posted 01-29-2017 01:35 AM

I’ll get some pictures for you Lew.

View jbay's profile


2681 posts in 1048 days

#10 posted 01-29-2017 01:56 AM

Strip it down and make your pops shine.

Strypeeze, (read directions)
scrap off old finish with a putty knife,
wash down with steel wool and mineral spirits, rinse down with water to neutralize stripper.
sand everything, stain and finish.

View bc4393's profile


73 posts in 1291 days

#11 posted 01-29-2017 02:39 AM

Agree with old english. Probably the easiest cheapest options to clean it up. An alternative to totally stripping sanding and refinishing is to take it to an antique furniture restoration place. There is a process where they can chemically analyze the finish and use the appropriate combination of solvents to remelt the original finish. That’s the optimal effect for antique furniture so that technically it has its original finish on it but it’s in the best possible condition afterwards. I have no idea how much this cost but I know my parents did this with some high end antique pieces with a lot of wood figuring that would have been a nightmare to completely remove and refinish.

View LittleShaver's profile


398 posts in 768 days

#12 posted 01-29-2017 03:41 PM

If the project was made in a high school shop that long ago, I’d guess the finish is shellac. You can test by rubbing a inconspicuous area with a little Denatured Alcohol (DNA).

There has probably been a good deal of furniture wax/polish applied over the years. You need to get that off to see what you really have. You first step should be to give the table a good cleaning. I’d use mineral spirits and LOTS of towels or rags. Keep cleaning until your rags come up clean after wiping off the mineral spirits.

Once you get it clean and determine what kind of topcoat there is, the next steps are a lot if “it depends”.

Restoration is returning the item to a serviceable condition while retaining as much of the original as possible. (my definition) You look to be ahead of the game as there do not appear to be any structural issues, only cosmetic. How much character you want to retain is a personal decision.

Keep asking and we’ll keep trying to help.

-- Sawdust Maker

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