bobsmyuncle - How can I protect these tables from watermarks?

valinsvNovember 21, 2008

You were so helpful on my recent refinishing project with my inlay tables, I am hoping you can advise me what to do with this set of drum tables I have. They are reproduction Duncan Phyfe style--probably from the 1950's--which I bought a year ago on Craigslist. I've noticed that the tops are VERY suseptible to watermarks. So far, they've been in a seldom used formal living room, but I want to move one of them to my family room, plus we are having company for Thanksgiving and I don't want to stress out everytime someone sets down a glass. I am guessing that the tops may have been refinished at some point, though the pedestals show more age.

I am thinking of putting some poly on them--or perhaps just some wax. What would you suggest? If I were to do the poly is there anything I can do about the watermarks on the one table?


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For watermarks, I am partial to the "stain removal cloths." I have never had a water stain that I could not get out with them. A close second is a wipe with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol, but without knowing the finish type, you risk removing a bit of it. The only consideration is that the cloth imparts a certain sheen (toward gloss) that may not match with the rest of the top.

If I was only removing the water mark, I would buff out the whole top with one of these. It will make it look good, but will leave an oily residue that's easily cleaned with a furniture polish or you can buff off with a dry cloth. It will also do a lot to spruce up the sides and rest of table if you have the energy.

Top coating with a varnish is fine. Do cleaning with mineral spirits and a light scuff sand prior to applying the varnish. But I would probably choose a brushing lacquer (dry in 30 minutes)if lacquer or shellac is on there now, or non-poly varnish. Deft Wood Finish and Watco Lacquer are both brushing lacquers. Sherwin-Williams Fast Dry, Pratt & Lambert #38, McCloskey's Heirloom (now sold as Cabot 8000 series varnish), or Waterlox Original are all good non-poly choices. If all you can find is poly, that's OK.

The biggest problem I see with varnishing is people want to put it on too thick. I would rather see you do two thin coats, with a light sanding in between than one thin coat. You will get much better results avoiding brush marks, dust nibs, runs, and other finish defects.

Wax is not an extremely good sealer for water. Yes, it may make water bead up, but it's still water-penetrable.

Of course, the ultimate solution is coasters.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 6:11PM
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Thanks, bobsmyuncle, for the quick response. I remember before you recommended the non poly varnish so will go with that. I do agree about the coasters and actually keep a set in the little drawers, but I'll feel better knowing the finish is a more water resistant.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 7:57PM
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I know you asked one person specifically, but I just had a thought that might help you out. You may want to get a round piece of clear cut glass to put on top. That way you wouldn't do anything to the current finish (if you like it) and the wood would be protected, but still be visible.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 8:39AM
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