How to revive a worn finish
A scratch here, a scuff there, and your eye soon sees the blemishes more than the furniture beneath. Worn doesn't always mean worn-out, though. Anything from a thorough cleaning to a fresh topcoat could cure the problem a lot easier than starting over from bare wood.
Before you treat the problem, though, determine the type of finish you're fixing. First, dab an inconspicuous location with denatured alcohol, shown in photo right. Shellac finish will come off. If it doesn't, try the same thing using lacquer thinner, which will dissolve a lacquer finish. Neither will affect a catalyzed lacquer factory finish or a varnish.
On newer furniture, you may also have to contend with tinted topcoat finishes. Check damaged areas of the finish: If a scratch changes color without revealing bare wood, plan to refinish from bare wood.
Before you go that far, though, let's try the easier fixes first.
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