Table refinishing?

I'm a novice and newbie, so go easy on me, please :-)
Some houseguests have left serious white rings on our wood dining table, and they cannot be buffed out with various methods (toothpaste, furniture polish, light sanding, etc), so I think I'm faced with doing a repair job. I have previously sanded and varnished a teak picnic table, but never a nice dining room table. And because I really like the old character of this table, I'd prefer to just repair the rings rather than redo the entire top.
I'm hoping that I can buff out the rings with an orbital sander and just touch up the spots, but I don't know what was used to finish the top originally. I expect that I have to do some homework before I do anything, but can anyone point me to a primer on a) determining what a table is finished with b) how to strip off a small spot of that finish c) how to redo that stripped spot.
Thanks, MB
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Try Liberon Ring Remover:
<http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?pagee17&cookietest=1
Instructions are on the Rockler page.
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Thanks B A R R Y: I don't know if I can get that here (I'm not in the US), but I don't think I need it now.
I rubbed Isopropyl Alcohol on the rings, and they came out. Of course, the glossy finish on the table is now dulled in those two spots, so now I'm going to try to figure out what the finish on the table is and see if I can put another coat on it to restore the gloss.
MB
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If alcohol, especially denatured alcohol, dissolves the finish, that would indicate the finish is shellac.
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Chuck Taylor
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glossy finish on the table is now dulled >in those two spots, so now I'm going to try to figure out >what the finish on the table is and see if I can put another >coat on it to restore the gloss. A dull remaining finish doesn't necessarily mean the finish was shellac. It sounds like you have been pretty busy with this using toothpaste, light sanding, and other methods. Any of those would affect the original gloss.
If it is a factory finished table, it is probably finished with some kind of catalysed lacquer. It is without doubt the factory choice for most factories. Probably the reason the white ring disappeared is that the alcohol (a miscible solvent) picked up the water through the scuffed surface.
The material Barry put you onto works the same way.
To see if it is lacquer, put a drop of lacquer thinner on an inconscipuous place and leave it for 30 - 45 minutes. Check and see if the finish has started to dissolve. If it hasn't, it could be anything else, but probably not lacquer. If it is lacquer, you should be able to scuff sand the whole top and top coat with lacquer. Forget spot repair.
To see if it is shellac, do the same as above except use anhydrous alcohol, shorten the test times, and proceed as described.
If neither of those work, then it could be anything from a concersion lacquer to some modified poly. In any case, you won't be spot finishing them either.
If there is any finish left on these areas that hasn't been taken off with sanding or toothpaste, try something like a high quality rubbing compound from a wood working store, made for woodworking finish. You should be able to polish it up with that, and may not need to refinish at this time.
Robert
If
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riverman wrote:

Try waxing it back to an even shine with a good quality paste wax.
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I have refinished many pieces and have also taken finishing classes at the local tech school. It will be difficult to refinish a small part of the surface and have a good result. You will almost certainly still be able to see the repaired spot no matter what technique you use. Of course it is possible. A master furniture restorer would have to be hired and he/she will not give a guarantee.
Have you ever refinished any furniture, ever? Best idea is to forget about it and save your money and energy for something else. Next best idea is to refinish the entire surface. That job is far more straightforward and can be accomplished much faster and easier than trying to refinish small areas. It is better suited to the skills of a beginner as well.
If you are totally new to refinishing it is a good idea to take a class or read a book. Perhaps try it out on a cheaper piece first. It is easy to do more harm than good when you are a newbie.
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riverman wrote:

Well, you are now.
But next time this happens (and it will), grab a bit of mayonnaise and rub it in with a clean cloth for a minute than wipe off. You should be done.
Bill
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http://nmwoodworks.com/cube


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:-) Yes, I'm sure it will.
I did a bit of online research, and tried several methods including the mayo. I wasn't haphazard about it; there were a couple of large rings, so I tried several methods on small regions. On one ring, I isolated a section (about 1/4th of the ring) and tried rubbing toothpaste on it (this worked on a ring I had last year on an antique chest). I left a small piece alone as an indicator, and put mayo on the next section. I left the next piece alone, and put mayo with salt on the last section. I let the mayo and mayo/salt sit for about 15 minutes to soak in.
On the second ring, I split it into thirds. I covered 2/3 of that ring and applied a hair dryer to the exposed part (which had no visible effect), and rubbed alcohol on 1/3 (which had the best effect), and put olive oil on the last third, again for about 15 minutes.
Once I realized that alcohol had the best result, I cleaned up the rest of the stains and carefully rubbed out the rings with an old T- shirt and small dabs of alcohol. I was pretty careful not to spread my workspace, and not to let the alcohol puddle at all.
What's left now isn't really that unsightful; if I look at the glare of reflected light, I can see where I was working, but otherswise you cannot see tell. In the morning light today I could still see a tiny trace of both rings, so I might consider going at it a little bit more...or not. I suppose 'well enough alone' is a reasonable lesson to learn.
MB
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