Acetone on Table

bjf624March 23, 2009

Lets start with the fact that I am an idiot. I was working with acetone on my dinner table and I accidentally spilled it. I have about 1/2 sqft of damaged area. The finish looks fine. The lacquer/shellac came right off.

(1.) How can I tell if it is lacquer or shellac?

(2.) Once I answer question (1.), Is it possible for me to just brush the lacquer/shellac and mildly sand down the damaged area?--could anyone suggest more detailed instructions?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


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Just to clarify terminology, the lacquer or shellac IS the finish. So, the finish doesn't look fine. The finish is gone.

Try a drop of alcohol (solvent, not rubbing alcohol) on another are and see if it dissolves the finish. If it does, it's shellac. If not, there's a good chance it's lacquer.

It's going to be very tricky to repair an area that large and have it blend in. If you want the repair to be invisible, your best bet is to refinish the whole top of the table.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 12:05PM
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If 'toning' lacquer was used it can be hard to get a good match for a partial repair.

Shellac comes in a number of 'shades.'

If you find the correct shade/type it is easy to make a repair, and if the lacquer is not tinted you can also make a good repair.

These are solvent release finishes that harden by the solvent evaporating.
They also melt into previous coats to form a single monolithic surface film.

If the finish stripped from the acetone it needs to be rebuilt in the damaged area, and then the entire surface covered with a new coat of finish.

Deft Clear wood finish is brushing lacquer.
Shellac flakes are available from a number of places in the common types.
Dissolve the flakes in denatured alcohol, strain (especially the darker less pure grades), then brush it on.
Two pounds of flakes per gallon of alcohol (a '2 pound cut') is common for brush work.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 1:10AM
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Oh, yeah, I guess I meant the _staining_ looks fine.

The stain is a real light wood stain and I didn't notice when I posted this, but there is a little tint in the undamaged area when compared to the damaged. Is it possible that the acetone ate away at the both the stain and finish, or that the finish had a tint?

I think I will just have to end up refinishing the whole table because it seems either way some of the stain was removed or the finish was tinted.

I have never stained or finished furniture before, do you think it is something a novice could successfully do? I can be fairly handy, but I am worried about the quality of the work.

I really appreciate your input. It has really helped out.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 2:19PM
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Yes, it is possible and likely that the original finish is a "toner" - a finish with color in it. It's often done on low-end finishes or on high-end finishes for special effects or adjusting the color.

Refinishing is not difficult, but it can be messy. But use a stripper and don't try to "sand it off." Also depending upon the wood, you need to pick the right product for coloring.

Poke around the link below and you will see several articles on stripping, coloring and finishing.

Famous last words:
- I'll be careful and won't spill this...
- Why they couldn't hit an elephant from (bang) this dist....

Here is a link that might be useful: Flexner's articles on finishing

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:35PM
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Thanks bobsmyuncle,

Once again, this info helps out quite a bit. I feel a lot more confident taking on this project.

I love your Famous last words. I could say that the first one was almost my famous last word after my wife saw the table, haha.

Thanks again everyone.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 3:15PM
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Here are photos of a job I did last week where a child spilled nail polish remover on a coffee table. Kid wiped up some and mom 'helped' by blotting. I think the blotting did more damage, but it may have just been elapsed time.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 7:47PM
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