After its time in front of the camera for issue 180, the Mission bookcase was moved to our display area—props and all. Unfortunately, those props included two maroon candles with nothing between the wax and the wood. Sure enough, the wax from the candle fused with the lacquer finish.
Kevin Boyle, our senior design editor, suggested lacquer thinner, but I didn’t want a reputation as the guy who ruined a perfectly good bookcase by scrubbing off the finish. In the past, I’ve used mineral spirits to remove any wax you couldn’t pop off with a plastic scraper. That’s because mineral spirits will soften wax but its doesn’t damage lacquer. This time, though, a spirits-soaked rag didn’t budge the wax. So I took Kevin’s advice and tried wiping lacquer thinner only on the areas discolored by the wax. After a couple minutes, the wax (and a little of the lacquer finish) wiped off enough to call it good. That left a few pale areas in the Varathane Early American stain, but nothing that couldn’t be touched up. A quick shot of aerosol lacquer to even up the sheen and our bookcase was as good as new. If you ever wonder why you’d want to finish with anything but polyurethane, imagine what would have been involved in removing that wax-damaged finish.