Need a little help repairing a water damaged cherry dining table. This is a
quality piece built in the mid 50's with that period's deep red stain. A
roof leak has left the surface a bit cloudy which rings a bell in my head
but I don't recall the exact key to the problem. Would this be a shellac
finish? It seems to me that there is a fix for this but I just don't recall
it. Any help would be appreciated.
If you're set on trying to fix this yourself, here is what Bob Flexner has
to say on the subject in this book _Understanding Wood Finishing_. He talks
specifically about water rings from a glass, but it should apply to any
moisture that has penetrated a finish. He suggest first trying applying an
oily substance, such as furniture polish, petroleum jelly, or mayonnaise
(his suggestion, not mine) and allowing it to remain on the surface
overnight. He states that the oil has a greater affinity to the finish than
water and will sometimes replace the water if the damage is superficial.
If that doesn't work, you have to decide how much you want to work on this.
Flexner's next suggestion is to wipe the finish with a cloth dampened with
alcohol. Quoting from his section on this:
"Dampen a cloth with any commonly available alcohol (denature alcohol is
best) and wipe it gently over the damaged area. Since alcohol will dissolve
shellac and damage lacquer and water base, in addition to causing water
rings itself, begin with a very slight dampening and add more alcohol if
necessary, observing closely what is happening. You will have the cloth
dampened enough when it leaves the appearance of a comet's tail trailing as
you wipe. The comet's tail is caused by the alcohol evaporating. Don't rub
hard. Wiping with alcohol will remove water rings in all but the most
If the above doesn't do the job, my suggestion would be to leave it to a pro
to decide the next step. As for the type of finish, I don't know what
people were using in the 50s as a finish, however, I'd be surprised to find
a commercial operation (if this is, in fact, a commercially-made piece), to
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