Home>Discussions>PAINTING & FINISHING>Stripping top coat finish on oak dining room table
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irish girl
Stripping top coat finish on oak dining room table

I have purchased a beautiful solid oak dining room table and china buffet. Approx. 30/+ years Not sure of finish. Do not want to remove stain color. Need to keep color to match buffet. Appears the person used inexpensive polish and then laid the protective pad straight on the table. The finish is not soft, just looks marred by the padding. The table has inlay wood and you can tell when it was purchased it was an expensive set. Very heavy for a table. I want to remove the finish coat but not the stain color. I would never be able to match the color. I assumed that the finish coat is lacquer, because of the age. There is no yellowing of the finish or anything like that. It does have a high gloss finish. Although I don't know if someone put another finish coat on top of existing one. How can I tell and what can I use to strip away the top finish coat without removing stain color?

Re: Stripping top coat finish on oak dining room table

Irish Girl,

Have you tried furniture cleaners? Does the damage appear to be on the surface? You might want to try some of the furniture polishes/cleaners. If that does not work try a mild rubbing compound.

Given the age of the piece, you could be right that the finish is lacquer, also not one of the exotic catalyzed lacquers now used. If it is an old fashioned lacquer, lacquer thinner will rapidly dissolve it, however you would probably lose a bit of the color. Test the lacquer thinner is some inconspicuous area.

If lacquer thinner does not work, you will have to try a paint stripper, but again you will probably lose a little of the color. To see what the color will look like given a coat of varnish or lacquer, just wet a small area with water. This will similate the final color instilled by a clear finish.

Good luck!

J Roper
Re: Stripping top coat finish on oak dining room table

Many old pieces of furniture have been waxed many, many times. The origional finish may be linseed oil the was used before mass produced products were available on top of shellac. The solvent for shellac is denatured alchohol. I've use the alchohol before with great results by wetting a rag and wiping. Before you do anything drastic, try an area first one the edge of the table. If it is shellac, it will get gooey. Keep the rag wet and wipe until the area is clean. (the test area) If that does work, then proceed to the top where the pattern is. Once the finish is removed, a paste wax and buffing with a soft cloth gives a really nice finish!
If someone has put a polyeurathane finish on the top then the alchohol won't disolve it. In that case it is a bit tougher. It may require paint removers or sanding in which case you won't be able to save the stained color in the wood.
You may be surprised about the natural color of the wood. That might be what you are seeing rather than a stain.

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