Touch-up for Varnish?

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Forum topic by PittsburghTim posted 11-02-2013 12:19 PM 1207 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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232 posts in 2524 days

11-02-2013 12:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: varnish oak

I am redoing our master bedroom. Fresh paint, new trim, and light fixtures. My wife wanted to leave the hardwood floors exposed. I pulled up the carpet and 99% of the floor looks great. The floor is oak with the original finish from 1958, which I’n guessing was varnish. My problem is that there are a few small marks near where the tack strip was installed and near the bathroom door.

Does anyone have an idea of what finish could be used to touch up these small spots? It wouldn’t really see any foot traffic as these spots will be 1/2 covered by the base and shoe molding. The rest of the floor has a nice, warm golden glow and I’d hate to have to loose it by sanding the whole floor.



-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

5 replies so far

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2563 days

#1 posted 11-02-2013 12:44 PM


-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3173 days

#2 posted 11-02-2013 03:46 PM

My dad was a hardwood floor finisher for over 50 years.
I grew up in a household where floor finishing was pretty much a daily topic of discussion.
Back in the day, I’m talking the 1950s and 60s, most homes were built with hardwood floors.
They usually got refinished every 10 or so years..
In between refinishing they would be buffed and polished every couple of years.

The buffing is probably all your floors need unless there is water damage or pet stains on them.

Dad would use one of his big buffing machines with a bristle disk pad on it and lay a pad of steel wool under the disk.. That machine had a diameter of about 12” to 14” and a handle like a lawn mower. Took a while to learn how to guide it. You raised the handle to go to the left and lowered it to go to the right. Rookies would try to push and pull the machine left and right by turning the handle and be exhausted in about 15 minutes.

This is what the modern equivalent machine looks like. You can tent them.

Anyway, after steel wooling the floor he would vacuum it real good, then replace the steel wool pad with a lambs wool bonnet and apply a coat of Johnsons Paste Wax, let it dry till it hazed over then buff it off with the bristle pad without any cover.

View PittsburghTim's profile


232 posts in 2524 days

#3 posted 11-02-2013 09:29 PM

Thank you both for your help. My plan is to use shellac to return the color to the areas where the tack strip was installed. I’m a bit hesitant to use a buffing machine as I have never used one and don’t want to risk burning through the finish., but I may try some OOOO equivalent Scothbrite followed by the paste wax. I do have a slow speed polisher that I can use to apply the wax.

Thanks again,


-- She asked me, "Who are you going to please with that?" I said, "Me."

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3173 days

#4 posted 11-04-2013 01:42 PM

Yes, the Scotchbrite should be a better solution than the steel wool. I did explain that what I was describing was the process used back in the 1950s and 60s. I am not sure that Scotchbrite was even invented yet.

I’m not sure about how the shellac will look. If the floor already was finished with shellac it will blend right in.

If the floor was finished with varnish or “Gym Seal” which is more likely, the shellac will just sit on top.

On the flip side, if you put shellac on top of varnish and don’t like it you can dissolve it off with denatured alcohol which won’t affect the varnish.

View CharlesA's profile


3351 posts in 2000 days

#5 posted 11-04-2013 01:53 PM

No expert on this, but you might try arm-r-seal—I’ve used it with a cloth to touch up varnish in our 1920’s heavy woodwork home, and it works really well.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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