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My mother recently called me to give me a coffee table she had packed away that my dad made in shop class in high school. Pop was born in 1936 so I'm guessing he made this around 1952. I was really impressed. To be honest I don't think I could make this from scratch any better than my dad did at 15 yrs old. The wood is in really good shape considering it was stored in ok old tin shed in the backyard at my mom's where it was shelters from the rain, but was subjected to temperatures up to probably 150 degrees.
Anyway I've done some refinishing but this table has what looks like a yellow tinted film that's really thin on it and peeling off in places. I'm guessing it's a lacquer. Anyone have anyone recommendations on the best way to strip this down? I want to take it all the way down to the wood before refifnshing. The more I look at this I am impressed with what my old man did when he was a kid. Really want to do this right.


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I would suggest Zip Strip but, test on the underside of both table surfaces.
That's one cool old table and so neat that you have something your dad built. And, built so well, too.
 

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wash that w/ TSP first and see what you have to work w/...
the figure out what finish is on the table by obscurely using different solvents...
start w/ paint thinner, DNA and lacquer thinner...

.
 

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That is a very impressive piece. It looks like he cut openings in the bottom layer for the leg to go all the way through. That would be pretty tricky thing to work out. Looks like solid wood, not ply, so he had to glue up panels to cut the top from. I also think it's great to have something your dad made.
 

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Be careful, It looks like a table I inherited from a family member from about the same time. It was edge banded plywood. The veneer of the ply is actually starting to separate in spots, and some of the edge banding is gone.

We just gave it a good cleaning, and used CA glue under a few places to keep it from getting any worse. I would hate to use a solvent and find it attacking the glue
 

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Tape will have a seam where it joins. Real wood won't. Shellac is alcohol based and it will disolve that finish. Lacquer thinner will disolve lacquer. As suggested try the underside first.
 

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There's a good probability that the finish is orange shellac. If it is, you can find out easily by test swabbing with alcohol in some inconspicuous place, like the top back side of a leg or underside of the upper table top. If your test removes an amber color from the swabbing, then it is quite likely coated with orange shellac. If the swabbing with alcohol doesn't remove the amber color, then the surface is likely lacquer. Lacquer can be tested by swabbing in a similar way with Lacquer thinner, but try it after testing with alcohol.

If it is shellac, you can either clean it up and maybe apply a fresh coat of orange shellac, or learn how to "French Polish" to renew the original coat. Orange shellac was heavily used to finish furniture in the 40's and 50's. It's quite forgiving and easy to repair, but it is also easily damaged with water. The white rings formed where drinks were placed is an example of this damage.

You can strip most of the shellac off by just soaking and wiping the surface with alcohol. Applying another finish directly over orange shellac is not usually successful because orange shellac contains wax and other finishes will not adhere well. For re-finishing with something else, remove as much of the orange shellac as possible. Then apply a coat of de-waxed shellac to seal the surface. After this is applied and allowed to dry thoroughly, you can apply most any pigmented stain and polyurethane or lacquer over it for a more modern and more water resistant surface.

If it was mine, and my dad had made it, I would do everything possible to restore it to
as original of a condition as I could, and keep it to remember him.

Charley
 

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I would have to agree with Charley. Although I'm not quite as old as your dad, I remember working with orange shellac in shop class back in the '50s. And judging from your photos, it certainly looks identical to the orange shellac that I remember. Yep, restore it back to its original condition.

Bob
 
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