Stripping Furniture with Delicate Inlay

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garlanre
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Stripping Furniture with Delicate Inlay

Postby garlanre » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:14 pm

A friend has asked me to refinish the top of her antique mahogany dining table. I'm an experienced refinisher, but this table worries me. It has a band of inlay around the outside edge that is chipping, has little pieces missing, and is dry and brittle. I'm afraid that using conventional stripping methods will loosen the glue, cause more pieces to fall out, or worst of all, cause the inlay to disintegrate entirely. Are there products out there for extremely fragile woods? Or are there techniques that will protect the inlay? I would attach a photo if it would let me. Sorry. Thanks. Rebecca Garland

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Postby AsonnyA » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:57 pm

A few months ago, I refinished 2 small tables with delicate inlay, but the inlay was not lifting, cracking or had any defects. I am not aware of any product that would assist your stripping of the piece and not affect your damaged inlay. So, I'm suspecting you will have to manually strip those delicate areas, i.e., gently sand (guage your own agressiveness) those areas with 220 grit sand paper, until the finish is removed.

Prior to sanding, I would try to reattach the loose or lifting pieces of inlay.... stabilize them, before attempting to work on them. If possible, insert new inlay where there are missing pieces.

Without seeing exactly what you have, there, I'm not sure what more I can suggest. At times, I've had problems inserting pics here, also. Maybe place the pics in your gallery, here. Post a link to another gallery (Photostream, Flickr) or email them.

Why has the inlay lifted or separated and is missing from the base wood, or can you determine? Moisture? Old glue has simply failed? Was the damage done as a result of some direct physical trauma to the table? Direct sunlight damage? Maybe some clue to any of these, or a combination of, may help determine a schedule for repair.

Sonny

garlanre
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Postby garlanre » Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:36 am

Thanks Sonny. I just posted photos on Flickr. I hope these will give you a better sense of my concerns.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/54183354@N04/?saved=1

Best,
Rebecca

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Postby AsonnyA » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:55 am

With regard to the table top, it has been refinished before. In my opinion, when it was sanded down, the slight indention between the inlay and the rest of the top was not sanded...not sanded in that slight groove. Moisture was able to penetrate, at those "channels" and cause the finish, along those edges, to fail. I suspect the moisture got under some areas of the inlay and assist in its lifting, also.

I would gently sand, as mentioned previously, those areas and use heat to try to reactivate the glue that might be under the inlay and clamp it back down. I would try to clean out those slightly indented edges, also. Somehow, clean the old finish from those indented edges, ... just sanding over them will not get down into those indentions. Hopefully the heating and clamping will be sufficient for securing those loose/lifted areas of inlay.

On the sides of the table, I suspect moisture was a big factor if the lifting of that inlay. Again, try to reattach those areas with heat. If that doesn't work, then some other technique, for reattaching those areas, will have to be considered.

Are you familiar with heating inlay (or veneer) to reattach it?

Sonny

garlanre
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Postby garlanre » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:49 am

Your observations are really helpful. Thanks. If I'm correct, to heat the inlay, I would run an iron over a wet cloth to melt the glue and then clamp it. Is that right? I've never had great success with this. How long would you suggest I hold the iron over the spot? And how hot should the iron be? Also, would you suggest using an Exacto knife to clean the grit out of the sides of the inlay?

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Postby AsonnyA » Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:31 pm

A clothes iron set just below the cotton setting. Use a dry cloth, not a damp cloth, when heating/ironing over the inlay. And you have to be careful not to heat the surrounding areas and have those affected, also. As for as how long to iron/heat .... you have to judge that yourself, by what the wood/inlay is doing. You want to heat it well, but you don't want to overheat/burn the finish or the wood. Test the stickiness of the inlay, as you heat the areas.

In cleaning the inlay edges, use whatever tool seems to get the job done adequately.

If you haven't had success with reheating/reactivating glue, in the past, it may be because there wasn't enough old glue to reactivate. That may be the case, here, as well. We'll try the easiest, simplest way first.

Sonny


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