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I am soliciting some advice on refinishing my dining room table. It is about 50 years old and belonged to my grandparents. I think the problem was that after my grandmother died, the table was left in an unheated house for a while. That seemed to have caused the checking in the wood grain on the top. Also it didn't help that I placed a warm casserole dish on it that left an imprint of the oven mitt in the finish.

I think the top needs a light sanding and some new finish applied. But beyond that, I am not sure where to begin. My apologies for the poor pictures.

Thanks for any advice.

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It all depend on how detailed you want o finish it. That factory clear wont be too thick. It shoul strip u easiy and sand down to wood nicely if that what you want to do. You finish will only be as nice as whats underneath of it. If your happ with the unharmed parts and the calrity of the wood. sand smooth with 220 then progressively sand to 800. Youll end up real smooth and flat. Wash it thoroughly with mineral spirits and if I were you, I would pour an epoxy top on it. thatll hide any unevenness and will cure to be a thick crystal clear top that you can cut and buff to a mirror shine! Also if you have a miahap a cut and buf will have it looking like new again.

If you take it down to the wood and follow the same process with a sanding sealer after your 220 sanding when you close that grain up to 800 youll turn the grain and definition on that top to HD! At that point epoxy would still be appropriate but if you didnt want the mess, you could spray on a few hot laquer coats and a cut and buff will do the same just not as thick and underneathit will be a top like you dont encounter often.
 

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I'm far from an expert but I have brought a few pieces back with minor work and a few with major work. I'm always happiest with the minor work. Looking at pics and guessing age, I'd guess a shellac finish, i'd try wiping it down with denatured alcohol first and seeing the results of a cleaning with that first, shellac is soluable in alcohol and it might revitalize the top after which a good application of paste wax would get you where you want to be without the finishing challenge of matching the top to the base
 

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+1 to ChefHDAN and rather do minor work.

I would try to determine what is on it first. My guess it is a Catalyzed Lacquer. Use a Q-tip with Lacquer thinner on it and dab it on say the leg where it is not visible and if it softens/makes sticky/ tacky the finish then it is Lacquer. If not then you could do the same thing with Denatured Alcohol where if it becomes tacky, then it is Shellac. If neither the Lacquer thinner nor Denatured Alcohol makes the finish tacky, most likely it is polyurethane, however, due to the age of the piece it is doubtful.

At this point there are many things you can try.

Clean the surface to make sure all waxes and dirt are removed, regular paint thinner is good or even a mild solution of Dawn and warm water or even non-detergent ammonia mixed with warm water. Rinse and dry the surface completely.

If you have determined the finish is Lacquer you can try using a dry 100% cotton fine thread cloth and a hot Iron, starting with a couple of folds of the cloth, place it over the damaged area and run the iron over the cloth to heat up slowly the affected area with a circular motion on the cloth. Do not let the cloth get to hot just a few circular motions then take off the cloth and look at the finish to see if there some correction to the finish. You may have to repeat this process a few times to see and change. The big secret here is slowly heat.

This process works if there are white haze marks and may work on other areas as well.

If it is a shellac finish, again clean the surface to make sure all waxes and dirt are removed with a mild solution of Dawn and warm water or non-detergent ammonia mixed with warm water. Rinse and dry the surface completely and as ChefHDAN recommended wipe lightly with a moist 100% cotton cloth Denatured Alcohol and seeing the results of a cleaning with that first. As I do not use Shellac as a finish coating I bow to someone elses procedures at this point.

If polyurethane, clean the surface to make sure all waxes and dirt are removed, regular paint thinner is good or even a mild solution of Dawn and warm water. Rinse and dry the surface completely. You can now lightly sand with steps as if you were just adding another coat of polyurethane over the top following good finishing techniques.
 
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