Unusual refinishing problem


About 30 years ago, my father-in-law had a table professionally refinished. It's a large solid oak dining room table, with a 54" round top and massive center legs.
The job was beautifully done. To protect the newly refinished top, my mother-in-law immediately covered it with a tablecloth. But the tablecloth she chose had a light foam rubber backing, black color. It reacted with the new finish somehow, because when the tablecloth was removed, the foam remained.
Everyone was just sick about it, because this table has been around for a very long time, and is considered a family heirloom. From then on, the table was always kept covered.
Fast forward to today. My wife and I have become the owners of the table. I would like to remove the old foam. Any advice on how to do it? I'm hoping to find a method that's gentle but effective. Even though the foam has been stuck on for a long time, it's still possible to remove a small area of it with a fingernail. I'm thinking about warming it slightly with a heat gun and gently scraping. Maybe there are better alternatives, though.
Unfortunately, I don't know what type of finish was used. I'm assuming it was varnish of some kind, but I can't be sure. It does not look like an oil finish (I've used Waterlox on some past projects, and this finish doesn't seem comparable). And also, I can't try it on an inconspicuous place first, because only the very top of the table was affected. The rest of it is still beautiful.
It would be worth stripping and refinishing completely if there's no other way, but I'd like to avoid that if possible. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.
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On 23 Sep 2005 12:06:00 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

____________________ Bill Waller New Eagle, PA
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On 23 Sep 2005 12:06:00 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

If the finish is not shellac or lacquer based, you could try lacquer thinner (acetone) or (with a respirator and out doors) MEK. I would try a test spot on the underside. . ____________________ Bill Waller New Eagle, PA
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This is likely a lacquer or ployurethane finish.I would try to find a solvent that will remove the foam and would not scrape. If it's poly, any solvenet is pretty much safe. If it's lacquer you need to be more careful.
Here is what I would do:
On an inconspicious place where you have the same finish try rubbing it with lacquer thinner. If it doesn't wipe off the finish, then try using the lacquer thinner to remove the foam backing.
If that doesn't remove the foam, try acetone and ammonia in the same fashion.
If you find that it is lacquer, ie the lacquer thinner does begin to make the finish tacky and ultimately wipes it off, and the acetone or ammonia don't remove the foam, then you could use lacquer thinner and get the foam off without scarping up the table and just recoat and smooth out with some more lacquer and sanding, etc.
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Since you don't know what kind of finish was used, try the gentle solutions before you try solvents. I'd see what "Goo Gone" or some other citrus based remover will do first.
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

OK, early days of waterborne polyurethanes. if it turns out to be that, strip all of that shit off and start over.

if the backing was latex foam (likely), you have a clue here. latex breaks down in the presence of hydrocarbons, like what would be offgassing from most oil base varnishes and polyurethanes, laquers and such.

mechanical abrasion works, at least partly, so use that first. go to the grocery store and buy a box of nylon pot scrubbers, the least abrasive ones they have. use that to remove as much of the crud as you can.

without knowing what the finish is, be very careful with heat and chemicals.

definitely do the least destructive tests first.

an opinion from a restorer (in person) is worth a gazillion times more than all of the advice we can give you here.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Lots of foam turns to mush in about 10 years. Did yours?
The finish is undoubtedly varnish or lacquer. Guess it *could* be shellac but doubt it. Regardless, I would procede by...
1. Try paint thinner. 2. Try naptha
Neither will hurt the finish itself. If those don't work try the more extreme solvents suggested elsewhere.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Give Turps a try. It is reasonably gentle and doesn't effect many finishes once they have cured properly. Once again try it on the underside and see first. John
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