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Mystery finish on dining room table

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  • Mystery finish on dining room table

    I know very little about finishing and refinishing, but I know that the finish on the antique dining room table I inherited is USELESS. If you breath on it, it gets cloudy/milky and looks horrible, let along condensation from a glass, or even a spill that you wipe up in 30 seconds or less. The wood (it may be a veneer, I have to figure this out) has an open grain, and is very dark...I'm thinking walnut. I know it may be sacralidge to some, but I want to take this old finish off, and put on something that makes the table usable. Any hints as to what the current finish may be based on it's almost instant reaction to water, and how to get it off (assuming I have to)? I will do some research into new finishes and may be back for more advice!

    Thanks a million in advance!

    Brent

  • #2

    Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

    Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

    post a few pictures so we have some idea of what we are dealing with. an age of the piece would also help determine type of finish.
    Mark
    www.masterfinishing.ca

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    • #3

      Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

      Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

      This sort of thing is classically caused by moisture getting under the weak coating.
      In your case, very sensitive, old, worthless, weak coating.
      Could be nitrocellulose laquer or shellac or even old dead failed wax...it realy doesn't matter....just remove it and refinish with a modern tough finish like post cat lacquer.

      Be careful if its veneer...veneer can lift and be a problem when stripping.....or be easy to sand right through, causing equal distress and teeth gnashing.

      Denatured alcohol (or for that matter, scotch...amongst other things...not as fast but alot more fun) will dissolve shellac, laquer thinner will soften and remove old nitrocellulose while frying your brain cells and sending your wife screaming from the house...commercial strippers come in all flavours and remove most things (if you have the right one)...a bit of testing is in order.

      Paul O does this sort of thing for a living....he may have some wise suggestions.

      Good luck

      Julian

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      • #4

        Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

        Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

        Thanks very much guys! I really appreciate it. I am going to try to attach a couple of pictures. One of the whole table (sorry about the mess....I'm just moving in) and one of a blotchy part of the finish caused by only brief contact with some water....I hope this helps. I've also confirmed it's veneer. Does this mean that a chemical means may be safer, as there's less risk of sanding/scraping through the veneer?

        The table was made my McLagan Furniture Company Ltd of Stratford, and it seems to me from some quick research that they havn't been around since the 50s.
        Attached Files

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        • #5

          Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

          Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

          Given the age, manufacturer (I've refinished several of their pieces) and description of the current finish, I'd say go ahead and strip it, as the table is mass produced and not a priceless antique.
          First thing, remove the top from the legs, then wash it down with different solvents depending on the degree of waxing or "pledging" the top has sustained. Start with mineral spirits and see what happens.
          If there are any bumps, bubbles or blisters in the veneer, then repair them. Usually a hot iron on a piece of cotton rag will be sufficient as they used mostly hide glue to fix down the veneer. If you're not stripping the skirt, mask it off. Slop on some Circa 1850 and let it sit there until the finish wrinkles and blisters, then carefully scrape it off. Wipe the top with more stripper on a clean rag. When dry wash off with lacquer thinners, then sand very lightly with 180 grit on an ROS. Blow off dust and wash down with thinners. When dry you can go about finishing it to your taste.
          If you haven't done it before, stripping properly is a very time consuming set of steps, which too many people want to rush. However, if steps are missed, skimped on or not completed, there is a very good chance that the finish will ultimately fail, and it may not be immediate, the stain will go blotchy, or you will get adhesion (crawling) or surface tension problems (fish eyes).
          As Julian said, I do this as a business, so I'm certainly anal about getting it all to work, as returns are definitely not part of my business plan.
          If you need more details, just ask................Paul

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          • #6

            Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

            Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

            Wow Paul, thanks so much for all this....you spent some time typing all that out! Fortunately, I am one of those "do it right or don't bother" types, so when I get back from a conference, I will read over your comment and start the process. The veneer is bubbling on one of the pull out extensions so I will try your technique to fix those. Do you reccomend the iron on cotton rag treatment before or after the finish is stripped?

            Thanks again so much for your help!

            Brent

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            • #7

              Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

              Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

              Does the white cloud go away after a while? I had an antique oak table with similar "qualities" just the mention of moisture would cloud up like a winter'd day, but given time to rest, it was clear as ever before. I believe it had a Lemon oil finish, hard when dry but moisture played havoc on it. I learned to live with it untill I gave it to my son who now deals with it.
              Bill "Hickory" Simpson

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              • #8

                Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                Good question Bill. ACtually it seems to recover if you wipe up any water in a hurry, but if it's there for any length of time, then the cloudy bit it as well. I've also noticed that the whole top has become a little cloudy when compared to other parts of the table, like the undersides for example. WHen I get home, I'm going to try to take the top off as Paul O describes, move it to where I can do it without getting everyone in the house stoned, and strip it. I'll put on something durable so I can enjoy the table. Even though it's not a priceless antique, I quite like it and will enjoy it more if I'm not paranoid about moisture!

                Thanks!

                B

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                • #9

                  Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                  Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                  Brent, if you intend to use it and want it to remain in good shape, invest in a silence cloth (to protect from heat) and a table cloth over top.

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                  • #10

                    Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                    Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                    Brent!

                    As the finish is most likely an old nitrocellulose lacquer, I'd probably do the veneer repair after stripping as the heat will melt the lacquer and give you a sticky mess. You don't need much heat, just warm it enough to remelt the glue. remember to keep the heat local to the repair and keep it moving.
                    What wood(s) is the top made of?
                    Post some pics as you go.
                    regards.............paul

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                    • #11

                      Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                      Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                      Paul O, that's kind of what I expected, but wanted to make sure...thanks again! Rona seems to sell the Circa 1850 so I'll pick some up and some mineral spirits and give er a whirl.

                      Rick Thom, it's a tough call. I know one of the easiest ways to protect it and keep it looking good is to cover it, but I sorta feel there's no point in keeping it looking good if you never see it. I am willing to put up with a new finish that perhaps doesn't show off the wood as well (assuming that a super tough, durable finish detracts from the look, but that may not be a valid assumption!?) if it allows me to use it as is, and enjoy it. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but what do people use on a wooden, daily use dining room table top?

                      Thanks again all...

                      Brent

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                      • #12

                        Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                        Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                        Originally posted by timberframe View Post
                        I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but what do people use on a wooden, daily use dining room table top?

                        Thanks again all...

                        Brent
                        A dining room table used like a kitchen table will take a lot of abuse in most homes, especially if you have kids around. If you want to protect the table, a table cloth is first choice. Place mats (we use cloth ones) are an alternative but don't provide the same degree of protection. When not in use, it's left uncovered.

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                        • #13

                          Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                          Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                          Paul, do you have a favorite respirator for this? Considering we're into winter now, doing this project outside is not an option, so I'll have to take it to the shop and spare the family the fumes!

                          thanks again

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                          • #14

                            Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                            Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                            Brent, keep in mind that you will have to re-stain the table as well....although it is walnut coloured, it is actually oak (my guess would be red-oak)...although it *could* be ash...hard to say. (Paul, what was their primary wood...do you know?)
                            I dream of a better world, one where chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.

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                            • #15

                              Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                              Re: Mystery finish on dining room table

                              Ryan, thanks for the heads up! That might have been a bit of a surprise. I believe the underside of the pull out extension wings are finished the same way, so I'll be able to use them as test spots to "dial-in" the colors.

                              Thanks again,

                              B

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