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mandm
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I have a dinning table with scratches that I want to touch up and polish. Dont really want to buy a new table. I was wondering if it is same as violin touch up and french polish? Called a local furniture restorer and was told that the table should be stripped and refinished.... and the cost of that is pretty expensive.

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I did that kind of stuff in people's homes for a few years.  It's really easy to make that sort of thing disappear if you have the skills and supplies. It's NOT a DIY sort of thing, because matching the surface textures can be difficult, but in general it's easier than violin touchup  because the film thickness on furniture gives you so much more to work with.  A good touchup guy can make those scratches disappear in less than an hour. 

 

Finding and vetting a person with those skills is the trick. Look for someone who advertises furniture repair, leather repair, touchup, that sort of thing. Guardsman used to be pretty good, but not so much any more.  Might want to check out Furniture Medic Don't use someone who does primarily refinishing. Refinishing a table top to get rid of a couple of scratches is like swatting flies with a sledgehammer. Too much collateral damage. Check them out carefully on Google and Yelp and anywhere else you can find.  Skill level and service quality is all over the place.

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I did that kind of stuff in people's homes for a few years.  It's really easy to make that sort of thing disappear if you have the skills and supplies. It's NOT a DIY sort of thing, because matching the surface textures can be difficult, but in general it's easier than violin touchup  because the film thickness on furniture gives you so much more to work with.  A good touchup guy can make those scratches disappear in less than an hour. 

 

Finding and vetting a person with those skills is the trick. Look for someone who advertises furniture repair, leather repair, touchup, that sort of thing. Guardsman used to be pretty good, but not so much any more.  Might want to check out Furniture Medic Don't use someone who does primarily refinishing. Refinishing a table top to get rid of a couple of scratches is like swatting flies with a sledgehammer. Too much collateral damage. Check them out carefully on Google and Yelp and anywhere else you can find.  Skill level and service quality is all over the place.

 

Plus they would refinish with a fragile lacquer which was why it scratched so easily in the first place,  don't you think ?

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Plus they would refinish with a fragile lacquer which was why it scratched so easily in the first place,  don't you think ?

 

I don't know how old the table is, but I suspect it's probably finished with a waterborne coating if it's less than 20 years old - depending on where it was made. I doubt the finish is all that fragile. The scratches appear to be well down into the substrate, so it doesn't much matter how fragile or tough the finish might be.

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I don't know how old the table is, but I suspect it's probably finished with a waterborne coating if it's less than 20 years old - depending on where it was made. I doubt the finish is all that fragile. The scratches appear to be well down into the substrate, so it doesn't much matter how fragile or tough the finish might be.

 

The table was made in 1920s in baltimore by furniture maker potthast brothers. I think it is a veneer table. Not sure about coating type, but i thought if violins can be french polished then so can tables.

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The table was made in 1920s in baltimore by furniture maker potthast brothers. I think it is a veneer table. Not sure about coating type, but i thought if violins can be french polished then so can tables.

 

Cool thing.  The workshop was on Charles Street, yes?  Interesting history as I recall (I have family in Baltimore).

 

If the finish is original, might want to take things slow and try and determine the finish type.  

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Called a local furniture restorer and was told that the table should be stripped and refinished.... and the cost of that is pretty expensive.

Please get other opinions. If the table is worth anything from an antique value standpoint, stripping and refinishing would be about the worst thing you could do. Perhaps you'd be willing to post the name of that "furniture restorer", so others can avoid him/her? (not that exceedingly rare and talented individuals couldn't pull something like that off successfully).

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Please get other opinions. If the table is worth anything from an antique value standpoint, stripping and refinishing would be about the worst thing you could do. Perhaps you'd be willing to post the name of that "furniture restorer", so others can avoid him/her? (not that exceedingly rare and talented individuals couldn't pull something like that off successfully).

 

The Restorer that I got in touch with was Albert's Antiques restoration and refinishing in San Mateo California. Sent him pictures and got a call back. I asked about touching up, french polishing and making leaves for the table. Was told he cannot make leaves with pattern on the curtain. He recommended stripping and refinishing for the table and chairs. $1100 for the table and by the time its finished, the color probably wont match the chairs, but he can refinish the chairs for around 400 dollars per chair.

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The Restorer that I got in touch with was Albert's Antiques restoration and refinishing in San Mateo California. Sent him pictures and got a call back. I asked about touching up, french polishing and making leaves for the table. Was told he cannot make leaves with pattern on the curtain. He recommended stripping and refinishing for the table and chairs. $1100 for the table and by the time its finished, the color probably wont match the chairs, but he can refinish the chairs for around 400 dollars per chair.

First, given the origin and age of the table, the key word here is "burn in", where you pick a burn in stick (like colored sealing wax), or mix two to get a color that matches the lightest color in the top. Fill and level the scratches, seal, then paint in color to match the color and pattern in the darker grain, sealing between layers of color.  Then topcoat and level, then match sheen. I would get about $100 for that repair, so even in the Bay area you should be able to get it done for maybe $250, with a satisfaction guarantee.  This is the most basic of furniture touchups.

 

Second, anybody who can't strip and refinish a top like that and match the original color and look exactly just doesn't have any real skills, and should be avoided. I'd say "There oughta be a law", but we already have too much government, and too much incompetence.  :) Makes me want to put on my crusader hat almost as bad as ham-handed fiddle fixers.

 

If that's a 1920s piece of mostly hand-made, shop-made furniture, it's going to have some antique value even now, so it's well worth keeping everything as original as possible, and keeping everything as original as possible, and, just as with violins, as reversible as possible.

 

BTW, nitro finishes came in at the end of WWI, as an application for excess nitrocellulose production capacity from wartime gunpowder production.  It wasn't especially durable, having a bad tendency to yellow and craze and to degrade in sunlight, but it could be sprayed and applied fast. Shellac and oil varnish continued to be used right alongside it up through WWII, depending on performance and application requirements. Our family remodeled houses in the 50s and 60s, and were still using shellac on interior woodwork, as were most of the pros in the area. By the time I got through college, the military, and some time living in Europe and got back to woodworking in the mid-70s, it was all various types of lacquer - straight nitro of various grades, acrylic modified, CAB lacquers, and various catalyzed lacquers and other cross-linking finishes through the 80s and 90s. By the time I lost touch around 2002, waterbornes were in widespread use, and were working pretty well.  Really good on abrasion resistance, not so good on chemical resistance.

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