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welcome to the forum, Larry and thanks for posting your project.
Yours is definately a keepsake and worth taking care of. Please share the history of it with us, if you don't mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
A little history… I have this picture of my dad from around 1955 (he’s approx 35 at the time) sitting at this chair on the phone… I went on eBay to buy what appears to be the same phone (recreating the look and feel of the picture). I really don’t have much from my grandparents (lots of great books - grandfather avid reader of great books/authors). But this piece has a special meaning
Beard Collar Vintage clothing Facial hair Art
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You could do a lot with Old English Scratch Cover for dark wood. There are places though the finish is gone. If it were mine I would chemically strip it and refinish it.
Please see additional picture (close up) of what feels like (when I run my fingers across it) bumps in the finish… how to remove or clean that? Thank you!!!!!
Brown Wood Tints and shades Flooring Magenta
 

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Problem is … the nicer you make the finish, the further you get away from your grandmothers history. Looks like there is a piece of raised trim around the top … can you lay in a piece of glass to get a smooth surface?
 

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I'm with @Steve Neul on this. I would strip and refinish. If granny was alive i'll bet anything she would have refinished it if she could. To me, on a production made table with dents, dinks, spill damage, stains and worn spots made in the 1940's or 50's has no real value so why not restore it to new condition and use it as a lamp table?
 

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I am familiar with these two finish restoration products:
And this may be the same as Formby's Refinishing since Min Wax bought them out:
Amazon has Formby's but it's priced off the chart.

If you don't want to strip and refinish the entire piece, this stuff dissolves and blends the original finish back to "not quite" original in my experience.
The excellent stripping chemicals of years past that contained methylene chloride have been pretty much banned except for professional use. They were deem a health hazard about 10 years or so back. Kleen Strip made a product called Aircraft Stripper, and I may have the last spray can of it? It is also no longer available.
The new stuff is likely less effective, I donno?
 
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I am in the don't refinish camp. When people refinish they usually opt for modern finishes, meaning some form of hardware store polyurethane applied with a brush. They get brush streaks, then ask the forum how to fix that. Given the age and provenance of the piece, in addition to sentimental value, I would advise doing as little to it as possible.
The last pic you posted, though, looks like there is more than finish damage. I see a lot of dents. They can be filled, but they will always look like filled dents. I would guess this peice was made in the '20s to '30s, a time when they were using a brand new material -- called plywood. If the top is a veneered plywood you cannot sand out the dents without destroying the top, then applying veneer over the top to restore that... you will find yourself applying a fix to fix the fix to fix the fix... so just do as little as you can to make it look like a loved and used piece of furniture. Howard's products are good and easy to use for that; Mohawk also sell a wide range of restoration products.
For cleaning I generally use Murphy's Oil Soap. After cleaning I work on the dings and dents that light up, mostly just to match the exposed wood to the existing stain. You can get felt tip stain pens at HD and other places. Find one that is a close match and hit the spots where the dings and scratches light up. If you don't like the look, these pens wipe off with alcohol, and I will often give a retouch a wipe with a little alcohol to blend it in. Then I spray on a light coat of super-blond shellac (you can get this in a spray can at the hardware store). My final step would be to get a nice piece of glass to cover the top so it does not acquire any more dings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you all!!! I’m going to review the products noted above.. I don’t plan to strip down to the wood and refinish…. I think the idea of putting glass on top is great (will do) but hoping to first get top looking decent enough (cleaning/prepping first and then blending in color… approach like that). And please provide anymore suggestions you have. Thanks again!!!
 

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I’m so glad to hear that! Restoration vs refinish. Big difference! I (and many restoration experts will agree) that for a restoration, stripping antique furniture should never be the first choice until other options have been tried or the finish is damaged too much.

The first step is to clean it. You will often be amazed at the change just a good scrubbing will do. Krud Kutter and a grey scotch pad works well. That bubbling is a good indication of shellac, in which case a card scraper is an excellent way remove it. Scrubbing with denatured alcohol will safely remove the remainder of the finish. Depending on the result, you may elect to use a dye to even out the color. NGR (alcohol based) is better, definitely no stain.

Top coat of your choice. Shellac is very easy. It can be brushed and sanded with 400 between coats (3-4). Finish off by applying Howards FeednWax using 0000 steel wool. You need a good quality badger brush and high quality steel wool.

I totally agree with @Half Fast Eddie on both the stripping and the glass 😁

Whatecer you do, good luck and be sure to post some progress pics!
 

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Please see additional picture (close up) of what feels like (when I run my fingers across it) bumps in the finish… how to remove or clean that? Thank you!!!!! View attachment 442970
Very likely the original finish is lacquer. Lacquer can get bubbles in it like that if it has gotten wet. It's not a waterproof finish. Still, the only solution is to strip the finish off and refinish it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I used Krud Kutter this morning - it worked well. I used cotton shirt to wipe off residue, the scotch pad seemed to remove finish in those spots near down to the wood where the ‘krud’was. The ‘bumps’ are gone mostly but still have the underlying spots. Do I just continue to use scotch pad… or sand down to wood in those areas? See current pics (note the 2nd pic - when krud kutter is sprayed on - turns it black… )
Brown Hood Rectangle Wood Automotive exterior

Brown Rectangle Wood Flooring Floor
 

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The "chemistry" of wood finishing is no simple concept.
While there are well known types of finishes, shellac, varnish, lacquer, and polyurethane, and those vary with the age and cost of the piece, you need to experiment to find what combination works on your project. The cause of cracking and small bubbles is also somewhat of a mystery so more experimentation is required.
There are two ways to deal with to remove or restore an unknown finish.
One is just to physically remove all or part of the existing finish.
The other is to use a chemical to dissolve it enough to blend it or remove it.
I always start with the physical approach first then proceed to the chemicals.
Remove as much loose finish whether as a final step or as a first step to make the chemical's job easier.

Sanding should only be done after as much of the finish is removed as possible, since it will need to go below the fibers that are stained or painted to show clean, bare wood. When sanding old finishes it's important to wear a proper mask or respirator since that very fine dust is contaminated with unknown man made substances, in addition to natural wood dust
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you! I did another couple tries with Kurd Kutter - the pic is of it just after i wiped it down, so still wet , hence the black coloring when wet…. I think those areas need to be addressed in some manner… but not sure how….
Brown Photograph Light Black Rectangle
 
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