durable wood/durable finishes

Hi.
I bought a new cherry dining room table two years ago and it's really beautiful. The thing is, due to ignorance and a cat with sharp claws, the finish on top has lots of scratches, and a large discoloration that happened when I put a hot plate directly on its surface.
My questions are: can the finish be restored? If so, is there any kind of material I could have it coated with that would be impervious to cat claws and hot plates (it has scarred even through placemats). If not, could someone suggest a wood/finish that is durable and forgiving of use, and yet does not look totally plastic?
Thanks, Jenn
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We get this problem all the time. I'd suggest wrapping it in burlap, then applying a nice thick coating of plaster. That way it'll still look like a cat, but it won't be able to jump up on the table so easily, and it sure won't be able to scratch the table top. And you could spray paint it a nice terra cotta color; it'll look more like a statue that way.

Shellac doesn't look as plastic as polyurethane, but I'm not sure how well it'll stick to cat fur. Epoxy resin would be my choice; it sets up fast and is verrrrry durable.
Hope this helps.....
-JBB
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oh, dear, I think you missed the politically correct boat on that one!
dave
J.B. Bobbitt wrote:

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Jenn, First of all the CAT is YOUR problem . . . I won't even get into that other then to mention 'training vs de-clawing'.
Now lets approach the finish. IF, I repeat IF the finish is a shellac based one you MAY be in luck. New shellac dissolves, or 'merges' with the old. If the scratches aren't too deep, and the discoloration is in the FINISH {and NOT the wood}, a relative simple treatment MIGHT WORK. Wipe the surface with denatured alcohol. Use a LOT of rags to 'suck up' the finish in the area of the discoloration. IF it works you should see the scratches partially filled and less obvious, and the discoloration gone. Now apply a couple of careful coats of shellac. That's the 'quick & dirty' method.
For a REALLY good job, you have to start from the 'bottom up'. Hopefully the table is SOLID Cherry, and not just a veneer !! You've got to find out WHAT the finish is, and REMOVE it. {look on the underside of the table - hopefully there is the name of the manufacturer and a model # . . . contact them for as much info as you can get}. After you are down to 'raw wood' , simply prep & build a finish for YOUR circumstances. {Be warned . . . the original 'beautiful' finish may have been due to a number of 'commercially sprayed' dyes, stains, & glazes}.
The 'purests' say DON'T stain Cherry, let it 'age gracefully'. If you do 'stain' it; use an aniline dye. For YOUR purposes, and 'working environment' a Poly is just about the only thing that will hold up. Yes, they tend to look like 'plastic' . . . when put on too heavily, and the 'cool' hue isn't taken into consideration. You should be able to add the *tiniest* amount of the aniline dye to the Poly to just 'take the edge off' that inherent coolness.
Get your self some pieces of Cherry and EXPERIMENT until you find what pleases YOU and 'holds together'. From a chemical & mechanical standpoint . . . several thin coats of poly should withstand the aggressiveness of your cat, and give SOME increased resistance to heat. However, 'Hot Pads' ARE recommended for pots, pans, and items with heating elements !!
Regards & Good Luck, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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Ron, I was surprised to read your comment about poly being "cool" in nature. I've used poly and find it imparts a definite amber tint. Were you by any chance referring to most waterborne polys, which of course is cool unless a tint is added
dave
Ron Magen wrote:

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Dave, Yes to 'water-based'. That is the stuff I use when a project is of a 'working' nature; like a kitchen stand/cabinet or a dining table top. Also, anytime I do anything in the house {gas heat and appliances - open flame pilot lights} it is Joanne's preferred finish due to the pervasive burned hydrocarbons smell that permeates the house.
When I want that rich, classic Amber tone with a relatively hard, 'handleable', surface/finish. . . out comes the Marine Varnish {short-oil type, NOT Spar}.
Regards, Ron Magen Backyard Boatshop

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brought forth from the murky depths:

What's an example brand for that finish, Ron? I hadn't heard of a short-oil marine varnish before, only long-. URLs?
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