Repairing veneer finish?

party_music50October 25, 2005

Hi -- I checked the "Furniture" forum and someone has already posted the same basic question and didn't get an answer there... then I tried posting on "Home Decorating" and they suggested you all might be able to help me.

I bought a veneered dining room table a few years ago. Hardly used it... but I set a rubber-backed(?) wooden placemat-type thing on it, in the center, which stayed in place for a long time. When I went to lift said 'placemat', it was *stuck* to the finish on the table.

Long story short(er), I thought the finish had "melted" or had a bad chemical reaction (feels sort of bubbly in spots). Others felt it was glue particles ON TOP of the table finish and had ideas for removing it: tried murphy's oil soap, tried buffing with a nylon, tried some kind of "goo" remover... it's getting worse with every attempt :) and others now believe my theory that the finish had "melted". In any case, anything set in the middle of the table now *sticks* to it and it looks like CRAP. :(

SO... can anyone tell me how this could be fixed? Do I just *carefully* sand down the top and then cover with polyurethane? or ???

Thank you!

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What sort of wood is this table made of? I'm hoping it's teak, with an easily repaired oil finish, but that's a long shot.

I have heard of rubber backings reacting with certain plastics. For example, I've seen cases where rubber-back bath mats have permanently discolored vinyl bathroom floors. I think a reaction with the finish is a very plausible explanation, but it would be tough to confirm without the help of a chemist. Anyhow, it does sound as if the finish may have to be redone. You don't say (or, most likely, know) what the existing finish material is, so no one can say whether that finish can be spot-repaired or the whole surface needs to be stripped.

If you do set about taking off the old finish, you will have to be very careful not to sand through the veneer. Commercial veneers are painfully thin and unforgiving.

Once you have the old finish off, there are all sorts of finishes you could apply. Polyurethane is cheap, widely available and brushable, but won't give you a super-smooth surface. There are lacquers, oils... There's no one right answer. A lot depends on what you want the new finish to look like, and how much trouble you're willing to go to.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 8:54AM
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The finish may be lacquer---try wiping a rag wetted(not dripping wet)in lacquer thinner over the bad spot. Lacquer thinner will disolve dried lacquer, so if the mess starts coming off, all you have to do is remove the mess and let the table top dry. You may need to refinish it later.

If lacquer thinner does not work, try rubbung alcohol. If that works, the finish mayu be shellac---although shellac is not a good choice for table finishing---reacts with water/drinks.

Sanding, as Jon warned, a very risky thing to do on veneer. Many veneers are less than 1/32" thick---a power sander will plow through that in seconds.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 11:29AM
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I would just lightly brush on some laquer thinner....just on the bad spot....don't brush it at all just lay it on.
What I hope will happen is the laquer thinner will melt the finish in that area, then evaporate and the finish will be smooth again.
In the furure stay away from Murphy's oil soap unkess you KNOW the finish is varnish.....and unless you did it your self.....that's hard to know!
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 12:51PM
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Warm it up with a strong hair dryer or heat gun and use a good spokeshave to scrape it. You may even be able to use just the blade of the spokeshave. You'll, no doubt have some refinishing to do but this may remove the mess without further damage to the wood itself. Once you've got it scraped clean, then clean it up with the above suggested solvents and then sand with fine sandpaper. To get a really good look, I would think the whole table top will have to be refinished.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2005 at 2:49PM
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Thank you all! I have temporarily put off working on the table as I'm having some other (unplanned) work done -- but I will get back to it shortly!

Even if I am able to repair the damage to the center section of the table, I agree that the entire top will need to have something done to stop this from happening again. I'm afraid this table may be destined for a permanent tablecloth. I've learned my lesson with veneers... :(

Thanks again -- and if you have anymore ideas, please post them. I'm so afraid of making this bad situation even worse.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2005 at 11:00AM
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From what you've said, I don't think the problem has anything to do with the fact that it's veneered and everything to do with a reaction between the rubber mat and the finish. No need to give veneer a bad name here.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2005 at 6:54PM
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Jon1270, I just thought this was a finish particular to veneers, since I've never had this kind of problem with any solid wood table. weird. ok, then, lesson learned with whatever this "finish" is. Excuse me if I'm using the wrong terminology. I know nothing of woodworking. (and I do notice that the veneer is starting to show what I'll call "splits"? tiniest raising at the edges where two pieces meet). Yes, I now know it wasn't a very good table. :(

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 1:03AM
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It does sound like the manufacturer made a low-end job of it. My guess is that the glue might've been affected by some of the cleaning solvents you've tried for getting the goo off. As a woodworker I know that veneer work can be done well and, in many ways, superior to solid wood. On the other hand, it's nearly impossible for a buyer to discern what sort of glue was used, or how skillfully. At least with solid wood you can see what you're getting. Sorry you're having a bad experience.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 7:55AM
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new here...want to ask a related question...just bought a diningroom set from early 60s (I think)..veneer is in rough well, someone has refinished it badly...I want to remove the old "yellow" finish without damaging the veneer....can you recommend something I should or should never use? I have no experience but lots of enthusiasm. Dale

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 1:27PM
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This sounds exactly like "plasticizer migration." The way I explain this to people is that the chemicals in plastics that keep them soft and flexible move into the finish and do the same thing there.

It depends upon how extreme the damage is, but it can usually come out. I normally abrade the top layer of finish with steel wool or sandpaper, then either buff smooth or apply more finish. For extremely light damage, you can spray on a _LIGHT COAT_ of something called "reflow solution" (basically, a slow lacquer retarder in a can). But I never seem to get any that slight. For minimal damage , yellow cloths called "Stain Removal Cloths" will remove the damage. Though they will sometimes change the sheen, so you have to readjust the sheen or do the whole table top.

I have done some that have sat in a warehouse all summer and the top looked like worm tracks in a muddy sidewalk after a rainstorm. It all came out with rubbing.

In extreme cases, the dye is carried into the finish on a light colored wood and I've had to strip and refinish.

In any case, I think the damage is in the finish, not in the wood.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 3:02PM
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... and please, do not use polyurethane. It is almost certainly not what is on there now.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 3:54PM
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kmealy,s advice is right on. It is plasticizer migration, almost certainly a lacquer finish. The fact that the table is veneer has nothing to do with it. Lacquer finishes were and still are used on most fine furniture. The reflow solution, also called lacquer flow-out is the most likely remedy. It should be sprayed on fairly heavy. The idea is to re-liquify and reflow the lacquer. Clean the area well with mineral spirits first to remove any wax.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:44PM
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I have just completed a desk unit in oak veneer for a customer. After staining it and then applying two coats of Danish Oil, the unit was ready to be picked up by the customer when I noticed that a crack(split) in the veneer surface had developed and appeared to be migrating along the grain line. The edges of the split/crack also appeared to be curling up. Is there any way that this can be repaired short of replacing the top with another top finished as the ofirst top had been??

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 8:37AM
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