This is a drop leaf table that has some spots (the white spots in photo
posted in alt.binaries.pictures.woodworking) where the finish is completely
gone. The table is about 70 years old. I have know idea what took the finish
off. It is a hand me down from my mother. I do not want to re-finish the
whole table just touch up the real bad areas. The spots are are glossy
looking and very smooth like glass.
Thanks for your help.
It will be easier to re-finish the whole top than to try to match and
level that area alone.
The matching won't be as difficult, you just need to play with some
stains and topcoats.
The fact that it chipped is more of a problem.
Strip it, sand it, and refinish it.
Based on the underlying wood, it doesn't look 70 years young. It's very
Just as a guess, this looks like a shellac finish over raw wood.
maybe orange shellac. You could find out by putting alcohol on a spot
and seeing if it melts the topcoat. If it does, find out what color it
is again orange is my guess and see if you can fix it. Shellac and alc
will melt into the original finish. But that is not a normal shellac
chip.. so it's a crap shoot without knowing for sure...
"tiredofspam" <nospam.nospam.com> wrote in message
I will try the alcohol test and see what happens.
It was a wedding present to my parents from my mothers father (my
grandfather). He built it when she was a young girl and it never got used
because his wife passed away and that is who he originally built it for. He
stored the table away until my mother got married. That is the main reason I
do not want to refinish the whole table.
Given the table's age, the original finish probably is shellac as
tiredofspam observed. For a more detailed explanation of how to fix a
damaged shellac finish, take a look at
or any of a number of other sites you will find with a Google search on
"repair damaged shellac finish".
Didn't see the photo (among reasons - I am on dialup).
As was said, it probably would be overall easier to refinish the top -
BUT, you said it was 70 years old and from your mom, so completely
understand why you might want to keep as much of the old finish as
possible (if that is the reason). Afterall a completely refinished table
really is little more than a new table - not mom's table.
White sounds like (as I said didn't see photo) water and heat. Finish
might be lacquer, which doesn't stand up well to heat. But no telling
until you test it with solvents (in a inconspicuous location).
If the spots are smooth and glossy it may be the finish - of course
rubbed wood can also be smooth and glossy - but to a point.
Is it possible the finish is not gone but is turned white?
That is not normal white spotting or clouding because of heat and/or moisture. That looks like paint carefully dabbed onto where the clear coat may have flaked off, in spots. The edges are defined and sharp, not melded into the adjacent clearcoating. And you say it feels smooth, like glass.... like enameled paint?
It may be an area that was damaged, someone put (white?) putty there, then put a clear coat on top.
I would attempt to scrape off a small area, to see if it flakes up/off... easily. Use a pointed sharp knife or some such. If a spot scrapes off easily, scrape it all off, then assess what to do next.
If scraping doesn't work or help, the last resort is, as others have said, refinish the top. At least you could try to repair the spot, for practice's sake. You have nothing to loose and it shouldn't cost much, at all, to try a spot repair. Even if it's a poor repair, you can always fall back on refinishing the whole top.
That is not normal white spotting or clouding because of heat and/or
moisture. That looks like paint carefully dabbed onto where the clear coat
may have flaked off, in spots. The edges are defined and sharp, not melded
into the adjacent clearcoating. And you say it feels smooth, like glass....
like enameled paint?
It may be an area that was damaged, someone put (white?) putty there, then
put a clear coat on top.
I would attempt to scrape off a small area, to see if it flakes up/off...
easily. Use a pointed sharp knife or some such. If a spot scrapes off
easily, scrape it all off, then assess what to do next.
If scraping doesn't work or help, the last resort is, as others have said,
refinish the top. At least you could try to repair the spot, for practice's
sake. You have nothing to loose and it shouldn't cost much, at all, to try
a spot repair. Even if it's a poor repair, you can always fall back on
refinishing the whole top.
It is not paint of any kind. I am pretty sure it is heat damage and maybe
water damage. The table was always hand rubbed with oil when my father was
still alive. I know that when he passed my mother started using that canned
You mean he waxed it.
Are you sure the finish is gone?
It does indeed sound like shellac which is good. It is easier to repair
than a lot of harder finishes. The public library will also (usually)
have a number of books on finish repair. Shellac is used to repair
damage to most finishes anyway so your just going to be using shellac.
I will probably be flamed for say this but...(what I would try)...
Try lightly wiping the spots with a cloth with alcohol, not drenched -
take care to keep it off the rest of the finish.
You may find the white goes away (especially if there is still shellac
present with moisture trapped in it).
Online or books will guide you through the normal process.
Once you get it repaired - remember moisture and heat need to be kept
from the finish. Use mats (or such) and pot holders.
No that's absolutely not the kind of image you'd get for that kind of
damage. It's some sort of filler. I see elsewhere you mentioned it
being hard/glassy. The picture isn't clear enough to tell exactly the
material and might easily not be able to tell for certain even if it
were but whatever it is it is a filler.
It is possible as another respondent says that it is a remnant of the
original construction and was tinted to hide a damaged spot originally
but I'd give higher odds of it having been done later after some
As noted in the other response, your choices are somewhat limited --
either try to color over it to mask it or remove it and either patch in
matching wood or use a newer stainable filler material.
The dead giveaway is the absolute purity/uniformity of the color and the
sharp edges that clearly are the result of the patching material having
been sanded down to the surface of the table. There are even a couple
of small pinhole areas as well as the bigger.
If the photo is simply deceiving, and something did manage to bleach
every bit of the color and grain entirely out of the wood (which just
isn't possible to leave wood that featureless) sanding will soon
discover whether there's any material to work with just under the
surface or not. You'll have to sand out that sizable area to refinish
it anyway so nothings lost.
Regarding finish, and a note I forgot to add earlier--the dark area
along the dropleaf bead is pretty characteristic of a varnish and
somebody else mentioned the chip doesn't look like shellac--I'd agree w/
that assessment and note it is more symptomatic of varnishes. In the
40s/early 50s for a home woodworker varnish wouldn't have been at all
I agree that it doesn't look like heat/water damage. Another possibility -
a very remote one - is the table started out finished with white enamel and
a faux wood finish was applied over the paint; hard to tell, photo isn't all
OP: what does the wood look like on the underside of the table and inside of
the aprons? Any hint of finish?
Wow, that's wierd. I've seen lots of water spots in finishes but never any
like that. The norm is irregular edges and milky, diffuse white, not solid
white like those; they are caused by water being trapped within the finish
and can generally be removed, lots info about methods via Google.
For your spots, it seems to me that the first thing you need to do is
determine where they are vertically. There are three possibilities...
1. on the finish
2. in the finish
3. under the finish; i.e., the finish is gone and you are seeing what
was under it (which isn't wood)
Your finger tips should tell you which of the three it is.
The second thing you need to know is what the finish is. Again; three
The most likely is lacquer assuming the table was commercially made. If
home made, most likely IMO is varnish followed by shellac.
If the damage is IN the finish and the finish is either lacquer or shellac
it may be able to be removed using the appropriate thinner (alcohol for
shellac, lacquer thinner for lacquer). DAGS for methodology. For varnish,
a varnish amalgamator might work, don't know; again, DAGS.
If the damage is ON the finish about all you can do is remove it physycally
via gentle and careful scraping.
If it is under the finish - finish is gone - about the only realistic thing
would be to sand down and refinish. It would be possible for someone to use
artists colors and rebuild the appearance of the rest of the table then
clear coat over but it would require someone with *MUCH* experience and
ability and would not be cheap; the same thing could be done if the damage
is on or within the finish, same caveats.
I notice that in a later post you said the table was always treated with
oil. I don't understand that as it would serve absolutely no purpose on a
table with a clear top coat; all it would do is - maybe - build up a bunch
On Friday, August 3, 2012 8:46:49 AM UTC-5, dadiOH wrote:
3. under the finish; i.e., the finish is gone and you are seeing what was under it (which isn't wood)
The Chris's grandfather made the table, so I would think the table top is nice wood, appropriate for clearcoating to show the nice wood. Painting, or maybe even staining, such a table would be abnormal.
One thing I had thought of was there was some damage and someone patched/puttied (filled in, somehow) those areas, then (possibly?) *applied a clearcoat over the repair. It's hard to tell, for sure, what is there, as per the picture.
*Chris says the finish is completely gone over these spots, hence, has the areas simply been filled in with something, for filling divot(?)/trauma damaged.
I often visit this forum - http://www.refinishwizard.com/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=1 - maybe the pros, here, can give another opinion or further insight.
Chris, can you possibly get some further history from your mother, regarding the "damage" or some possible refinishing work in the past?
Whether you try the repair, yourself, or refinish the whole top or get someone to repair/refinish it, something will have to be done to those spots. I would test sand (or scrape), lightly at first, a small area to see if the white comes off or is affected, somehow, just to get some idea of what is there: Whether it is separate from the clearcoating, imbedded into the clear coating or is the clear coating, itself, that has been changed. Posting a pic of any change, as per sanding/scraping, might help diagnose the issue for subsequent recourse.
On 8/3/2012 10:47 AM, email@example.com wrote:
wood, appropriate for clearcoating to show the nice wood. Painting, or maybe
even staining, such a table would be abnormal.
patched/puttied (filled in, somehow) those areas, then (possibly?) *applied a
clearcoat over the repair. It's hard to tell, for sure, what is there, as per
My take on it, was this was a very white wood and we are looking at
chipping and the bare wood. I didn't think it was filled from my
perspective... but like everyone else, that's just supposition.
http://www.refinishwizard.com/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=1 - maybe the pros, here,
can give another opinion or further insight.
to repair/refinish it, something will have to be done to those spots. I would
test sand (or scrape), lightly at first, a small area to see if the white comes
off or is affected, somehow, just to get some idea of what is there: Whether it
is separate from the clearcoating, imbedded into the clear coating or is the
clear coating, itself, that has been changed. Posting a pic of any change, as
per sanding/scraping, might help diagnose the issue for subsequent recourse.
If, as others have suggested, the spots are bare wood, you can get a
better idea of what a clear finish will do if you wipe a rag with a
little solvent: water, naptha, mineral spirits, etc.
If it isn't shellac (after the already suggested alcohol test), you
could also get a small container of laquer thinner and see if that
will dissolve an inconspicuous area.
If I was trying to salvage that finish, I think I would start by tring
to find a scrap board of the same species and similar color to test
on. Or just sand out the spots to bare wood, put down some dewaxed
blonde shellac and let it dry, then apply dilute tinted shellac in
layers to see if I can match the color of the existing finish. I have
a few shades of TransTint on hand so I would use that to tint it, but
if you don't, you could look for some universal tining colors (UTC's).
If it didn't match to my satisfaction, I'd clean the area with ammonia
then water, let it dry, and start over.
I suggest shellac because it drys fast and is easy to remove.
I also would try a fine paintbrush for some of the edge work.
This newserver doesn't do binary so I hadn't looked at the pictures
before but the comments were so peculiar I finally found a mirror that
didn't require logging to google...
That is clearly imo patching of damage; I'd guess w/ plaster of paris or
joint compound or something very similar from the looks of it. I
suppose it could even have been a bondo-like material but it surely
looks to have been placed in a damaged area and then sanded smooth to
the level surface. That's what produced the sharp edges. Whatever it
is, it's absolutely _not_ damage to the existing finish.
To do anything that looks like anything at all its gotta' come off of
there and then either fill w/ a stainable filler product or cut in
butterflies or some other patching.
Unfortunately the resolution/focus is poor enough on the image can't
really discern what the wood species is--although my initial guess is
white pine based on the way the roundover area around the surface looks
and the small pin-knots.
Is it possible when he made the table he had to do some patching and he
did a great job of conceal it. With age the finish (and coloring) wore
off and you now see the patch again? Patching puttly should be obvious -
so it is hard to believe mistaking it for wood.
If it is putty and it is still holding strong then I would,
1 either - put a lighter stain on it (lighter so you can darken it
later) - or put down a layer of shellac first then a tinted layer of
2 now slowly increase tinting with each thin layer until you get the
Once that is done let it all dry well and then give it some dewaxed
shellac (good idea to use dewaxed shellac for all of it. Dewaxed will
stand up better).
Lots of suggestions have been provided, but your there so you are able
to test and try different angles on the repair.
From the looks of it, I'd guess it's totally impervious to absorption
so everything has to go on the surface. It basically needs a faux
finish painting job to blend that in if going to try it imo.
I'd probably just rout out an area and piece in a homecut (reasonably
thick) veneer section and go on if want the top to be more or less
consistent. A well done inset could be pretty much unnoticeable.
Depending on how dark the other is left it's possible might manage the
painting to blend in not too badly--there is very little grain so that
won't be too big a disconnect.
Suggest OP search for Teri Masaschi at the FWW site on finishing--she's
done several woodgraining/faux finishing articles that give how-to's
(and is _very_,_Very_ good).
Yes I agree. I didn't think of it for some reason..
If it is indeed a putty patch the best solution is a wood patch. As
close a match as possible then some dewaxed shellac, then start blending
and then tint.
If just sanded flush is "finely" finished... :)
I'd do it that way because afaiac it's much simpler to do a patch than
trying to do faux finishing -- others may have different skill
sets/likes dislikes. I personally just _hate_ messing around trying to
match stuff when I could easily make an almost indistinguishable patch.
And, while this is a family heirloom its not a historical priceless
relic that needs museum type restoration efforts--OP just wants a dining
room table that is usable and looks again essentially as he remembers it
when he was a kid.
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