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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Info on Dining Room Table


Table Boarder
Table Boarder  
Finish Problems
Finish Problems  
QUESTION: Good Morning,
The tablet was produced by Baker Furniture of Holland, MI. It is approximately 7 ft. long and 4 ft. wide with out the extra leafs.  It appears to be walnut with a boarder of about 2 inches of a much lighter wood around the walnut.  The boarder is blonde similar to pecan. The table had been refinished recently. The refinishing is cracking where the boarder meets the table and has some other "strain marks" in the finish.
My question is are the table and the boarder a single piece of wood or was he boarder added on during the manufacturing? If it is a single piece of wood how did they get the contrast?  I am a woodworker and refinisher of small pieces. I have attached 2 pictures of the condition of the table. I would like to know more about the table before I attempt anything.
Thank you for your time. I hope you can help me.
The Wooddoctor

ANSWER: Hello fellow woodworker and finisher.

the presentation surface is veneer over a fiberboard of some type.  the fiberboard probably has a wood breadboard edging of an unknown depth or thickness.  ie; it might go inwards 1-4 inches as a border so that when we look at the edges it is wood and if it gets moisture at the edges it wont swell like a fiberboard edge will nor will it be prone to crushing on the edges.

Not knowing what finish is on the top makes it difficult to determine the cause of the finish lifting, cracking and cleaving.  Usually there are a couple of reasons, one is environmental the other is incompatible coatings.  environmental being rapid changes of temperature and humidity; wood moving at a different rate than the coating.  some coatings being more flexible than others like standard nitrocellulose lacquer being more flexible, or less brittle, than postcat and precat lacquer.  OR, when it was refinished previously, the existing coating was not removed but merely cleaned, poorly or not, rubbed or scuff sanded, and a coating with very different characteristics sprayed over the old one so that you have one coating moving at a different rate.  This is my guess as it appears that the dark distressing marks are some factory and some later.  I could be wrong about some added later but the ones that look more like smudging may or may not be factory.  Or it could be both the environment and the coatings.  Either way, the fact that some distressing appears to be factory would indicate the top was never stripped completely or at all of the old coating.

another contributing factor could be that everything was done right but the new coating was put on too thick.  too thick is a killer.  coating needs to stay close to the wood, thin is better and done properly a full filled finish like this can be done in a few mills thickness.  remember how when using precat lacquer it states not to go over 5 mill thickness, and 5 mil is really thick for a coating/finish, like 5 hairs stacked--.005 inch.

If i were doing this project I would strip the top to the wood using methylene chloride stripper, not letting it stay really wet for long, wash with lacquer thinner, and let it sit for a week before doing any light sanding.  then i would sand lightly with 180 or 220 only, not any finer so the coating will have something to grab onto. Then stain with a dye or penetrating oil stain.  That is just personal, i like the clarity of these compared to wiping or pigmented stains although i use both.  If using a pigmented stain and not wiping it clean there can be an adhesion problem when the coating is sprayed --especially if the coating is sprayed heavy.  Think of it like spraying heavily over a glaze.  not good.

all this is based on my use of solvent based coatings and stains.  if using water based products, i suggest nothing as i do not like how they work nor do i think the chemistry is good.  maybe one day but not yet.

sorry for being so wordy.

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

QUESTION: Don't apologize for the wordiness. You provided a complete answer. I'm not doubting your expertise however I want to confirm that this table is a veneer? I just want to double check before I tell my client. She thinks that she has a solid walnut table. I am gaining more respect and appreciation for veneer work the more woodworking I do.
Not a veneer snob anymore.

Owners usually dont know anymore than what they are told by the salesman who generally knows only what they think they might or might not have read in a brochure that may or may not go to the table they are referring to.

I see mahogany veneer on top, cant really tell what the banding is, not too clear there but it looks more like a cherry or maple grain.

any time there is banding it is veneer.  it is not feasible nor is it a good practice to piece a band of lumber, it just doesnt work.
to visually test any top; look at the top then at the underneath, if the underneath is not exactly the same grain in exactly the same place then it is veneer. or cut into the underneath, not recommended on someone else's stuff.from top to bottom you will find a show, face, or presentation surface, layer of veneer, a cross-banded layer of veneer, a core of either mdf, fdf, particleboard, plywood, or boards (on early stuff), then another cross-banded layer and then outer layer of veneer.

hope this helps.

veneer is fun to work with.  make it your friend.  use hot hide glue to attach it to your projects using a veneer hammer.

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robert klein


In regards to American antique, vintage and collectible furniture I can help with wood identification, styles, age, periods, historical coatings, materials, techniques, repair, restoration, refinishing, and value. I do not study mid century and later furniture nor do I deal in lamps, and other smalls. You may ask for values and I will give you current market values, I will not give you 'feel good' values. Understand that there are many factors that contribute to market value. If you want a feel good, unrealistic number, please call a local inexperienced appraiser. It is my desire to help you and in doing so I increase my knowledge as well. For that I thank you.


I have been in the antiques furniture and restoration business and in the sales of antique furniture for 40+ years and have continued my education in the trade attending workshops and seminars by various organizations, institutions, and private collectors.

Professional Refinishers Groop, Int., AIC, Antiques Dealers Association

BA Florida State University BA University of West Florida 1971

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