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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Refinishing maple dresser/nightstand bought in 1953


QUESTION: Good afternoon, Greg.
Over the weekend my husband and I acquired a lovely bedroom set.  The gentleman who we bought it from has a letter from M. Feigelman, Fine
Furniture in New York City, Oct 1953, stating the set is made from high grade sliced white maple.  My question is how to refinish just the tops of the long dresser and the nightstands.  Both nightstands have water damage, where the color has actually peeled off and the top of the dresser has what appear to be blotches randomly all over the top of the dresser.  They feel sort of gummy.  I've tried cleaning with Dawn and warm water (barely wet of course), I've tried to clean it with Murphy's Oil Soap, but I just can't get them to go away.  I am pretty certain that there is some type of polyeurethaen or something over the stain because it is so shiny, doesn't look like a piece of wood that's just been stained.  So my thought was to tape around the whole top of the dresser and nightstands, then strip the top coat off, then I guess restain (not sure how I will be able to match the color) and then apply a top coat for protection.  So that's what I'd like to do, but I have no idea how to
accomplish it because I've never done any type of refinishing at all.  I don't mind the scratches or nicks at all, gives it character, but I would just like the tops to be smooth and protected.  Can you help me out??? I've attached pics of the nightstand, a corner of the dresser, but that doesn't really show the gummy spots all over the top, and a picture of the chest which is in beautiful shape, after lots of cleaning Sunday...
Thanks for your  help.

ANSWER: Hi Jody, the pictures did not come through...could they be too big, I'm not sure what the file size limit is...and my guess is that you're dealing with a lacquer finish that's been "toned", a process of building color and depth of a finish with colored and/or tinted lacquers. This is what accounts for the totally different color where the finish has come off. You will need to strip the tops, and then probably sand any damage away and even the tops out. Then color...and match the "look"... matching furniture of that era is especially tough, and really best left up to someone with the proper materials, and training to spray a finish like that..... simple stain and a topcoat will never look the same as these factory sprayed finishes. Please try again to post the pictures, I'll be here...Regards-Greg

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I hope the pictures come through this time.  I had troubles in the past with pictures, so I emailed them directly to Bob.  I'm not concerned with scratches or dings, adds character since they're so old.  I would just like to get rid of the blotches on top of dresser and fix the nightstands so they are usable.  Thanks for responding.

Still no images, what size are they?...usually the won't send because they're too big....there are a few free tools available to resize images...I like and use faststone Image editor.
there is no shortcut with this type of finish and finish damage...the finish is badly compromised and outlived it's useful life, and because of the nature of these finishes, they do not lend themselves to easy repair unlike many others....wish I had an easy answer....

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Greg Scholl


Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects, Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings, wood species recognition and usage,tool recommendations, blade types and recommendation,techniques and methods for many Woodworking related issues, etc.


Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.) Sold, built, serviced, setup Home, Industrial, and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools , provided knowledge, parts replacement, service, and on site service, Trade show Demo, and training as well.

Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002) ...("27 year compilation of expert know-how")

Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars from major Tool manufacturers, Skil/Bosch, Delta, Powermatic, Ritter, Porter cable, Milwaukee, Dewalt/B&Decker, Performax.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT. (the Antiques capital of CT.), Golden Age of Trucking Museum,Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies. For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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