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Apprentice Member
bttobin
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎11-18-2010
0

Question about a tacky finish on table top

Several years ago we bought a kitchen table and chairs from a local big box furniture store.  I'm sure its made in China, its some type of laminate or MDF, but it looks decent and the price was right.  The table was fine until recenlty when the finish seems to have softened.  It's probably a result of more frequent and aggresive scrubbing since the kids came along.  I'm planning to sand the table and put several coats of polyurathane down.  I've started sanding it and whatever was used as the top coat clogs up the sandpaper really quickly.    It' like polyurathane before its dry.  I've got things pretty smooth, but the old top coat is still there and still soft.  I don't want to keep sanding because I'm concerned about going through the finish.    Does anyone have a any experience with a finish like this?   Could it be shellac?   I'm probably just going to go for it and top coat with poly but thought I'd see if anyone has any tips first. 

 

Thanks!

Honored Advisor
kmealy
Posts: 2,020
Registered: ‎10-26-2009
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Re: Question about a tacky finish on table top

Stop sanding and use a chemical stripper.   As you have found out, sanding  is an ineffective and poor way to remove a finish.  If you try to apply anything over the top (stain or finish) you will find out it is even poorer than you thought until now.

 

You cannot apply a finish over a deteriorated base and expect to have it work and resolve the problem.

 

And, yes, I've seen finishes that fail.  Physical abuse, chemical exposure (including from acidic body oils), UV damage, etc. etc.

Honored Advisor
Steve Mickley
Posts: 1,567
Registered: ‎10-21-2009
0

One other concern…

 

Bill;

 

…should be considered.  In your post you mention “…some type of laminate or MDF…”  Is the table possibly a photo-laminate applied over an MDF core (sometimes called Thermofoil).  If it is; if there is not wood veneer on the MDF core, any attempt to remove the old finish will probably end in disaster.  Had you not grabbed the sandpaper as your first option you may have been able to clean the gummy surface with a detergent in water scrub followed by an aggressive paint thinner/mineral spirits wipe-down.  If you haven’t sanded too much that may still be an option.  Either which way, a good cleaning would have simplified the work of the chemical stripper (again, assuming the table is actually wood or wood veneer over MDF).

 

Oh, it is highly likely to the point of virtual certainty that the finish is not shellac.  Shellac does not soften as you describe and would not be employed as a commercial finish…

 

Steve

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Apprentice Member
bttobin
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎11-18-2010
0

Re: One other concern…

I actually did try to use hot soap and water but it didn't do anything to remove the sticky finish.  Mineral spirits was tried in a small area also, but nothing.  I didn't scrub too hard with the mineral spirits though.  It is entirely possible that the top isn't actually a laminate but something else entriely.  That's why the sandpaper was my last choice and I went at it very carefully as to only get through the clear top coat.   At this point the table is much smoother and is no longer tacky, but there is still a film that I can see if I scrath it with my fingernail.   I definitely haven't gone into the laminate, picture or whatever is on the top of the table.  Maybe I'll try the detergent followed by a more aggressive mineral spirit scrub.   I'll still need to apply something after that.   

Apprentice Member
bttobin
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎11-18-2010
0

Re: Question about a tacky finish on table top

The table top looks better now than before I started, so the sanding wasn't all bad.  I thought about a chemical stripper but I don't want to remove any of the color, just the top coat.  I've also spent some time in Chinese factoreis and they can do a lot to make something look like something it actually isn't.  The top could be painted, stained or something else entirely.  A chemical stripper just seemed too risky.  I've got the top smooth, I just need to make sure I've got it clean enough to accept a top coat.    I'm not expecting perfection from this table, just something that is presentable.  As long as the top coat will adhere i should be able to build up a few coats and get a pretty smooth finished product. 

Honored Advisor
ynoT
Posts: 10,516
Registered: ‎10-23-2009
0

Re: Question about a tacky finish on table top


bttobin wrote:

The table top looks better now than before I started, so the sanding wasn't all bad.  I thought about a chemical stripper but I don't want to remove any of the color, just the top coat.  I've also spent some time in Chinese factoreis and they can do a lot to make something look like something it actually isn't.  The top could be painted, stained or something else entirely.  A chemical stripper just seemed too risky.  I've got the top smooth, I just need to make sure I've got it clean enough to accept a top coat.    I'm not expecting perfection from this table, just something that is presentable.  As long as the top coat will adhere i should be able to build up a few coats and get a pretty smooth finished product. 


I've used chemical strippers and never had problem with color.

 

The stripper does just that, it removes the finish. If the finish was colored, than yes, it will remove the color.

You can always try it on a secluded part and see how it works for you.

 

Tony

"Why worry about things you can't control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you."

 

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