A well-used table is apt to sustain all sorts of nicks, scratches, dents, stains and burns, and for repair purposes, it is possible to categorize these into those that influence the wood and people who just affect the finish. Damage from the latter kind is simpler to mend; if the damage affects the wood, you might need to remove the finish for it, and that could indicate matching a stain as well as touching up the end. A couple of tricks can help prevent this, but sometimes you’ve got no other option than to achieve to your sandpaper.
Dents from the Finish
Examine the end by moistening a small, inconspicuous part of the table with lacquer thinner. If the finish softens, it is lacquer, but if it doesn’t, it is likely varnish. It is important to work with the proper finish when fixing surface dents.
Repair nicks and scratches to a lacquer finish using a small number of clear lacquer with a small brush. You can use a bottle of clear nail polish — which is lacquer — to make those repairs; the applicator is an perfect tool for touchups. You can also use clear wood lacquer and an artist’s brush.
Dab the lacquer onto the finish — do not brush it. It must soften the existing finish, merge with it and level all by itself. If the defect is still visible after a single treatment, apply another.
Allow the repair heal overnight, then rub it with 0000 steel wool to flatten the borders and the sheen.
Sand out nicks and dents in a varnish finish with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper moistened with water. After flattening the end enough to remove the defect, cover the region you sanded with one coat of masonry, with a paintbrush. Let it heal for two days, then rub it down with 0000 steel wool.
Dents from the Wood
Soak a small cloth, wring it out, put it over the dented area and leave it overnight. Check back in the morning, and if the wood has swelled enough to erase the dents, allow the affected area dry outside.
Sand it lightly with 400-grit sandpaper and employ a touch-up coat of finish. You can brush varnish with a paintbrush, but if the end is lacquer, spray it with an aerosol can. You might have to spray several times to match the existing finish.
Remove dents that are too heavy to remove with a wet rag with a clothes iron. Sand off the end around each dent and place a damp towel. Set the iron to high heat, then allow it to warm up and rub it over the towel.
Keep the iron in contact with the towel for a couple of seconds, then check your progress. If the dent is still there, then rearrange the towel to keep the section above the score iron and moist. Allow the area dry out once the dent is gone and repair the finish.
Stains and Burns
Make a paste with equal parts of baking soda along with coconut oil and use it to rub white water stains. The mild abrasive action of baking soda etches the end and allows the oil to soak in and replace the water causing the stain.
Sand off the end about a burn, like that caused by a cigarette. Mix a saturated solution of oxalic acid and water and then apply it to the burn with a small paintbrush. This should bleach the mark from the wood.
Repeat if needed. Neutralize the bleach with a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda per cup of water, then rinse the mend with water. Let it dry and repair the finish.