Re-finishing the tops of some oak furniture

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At least I think they're oak, they weigh a ton. They're currently finished with some kind of matt varnish, but not caked in it becase you can still see the pores. They are solid, ie not veneered.

The side table in the foreground has water damage on the top. I have started to sand it down, hence the light patches
The coffee table is mostly OK, but has quite a few blobs of candle wax on it.

I am trying to decide between Danish oil and matt varnish, both of which I already have. They won't have a quiet life in our living room, so I need a finish I can touch up from time to time, hence considering oiling.

I've done some test patches on the back of the legs and have found that simply sanding it a bit and then applying a finish isn't going to give a good result - the patchiness remains whichever finish is used, so I am going to have to sand back until the whole thing looks "pale", then finish. This probably then means that the tops are going to be much paler for a few years.

Rambling aside, my question is, varnish or oil?

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They are almost certainly finished with a low sheen level lacquer, probably acid catalysed or pre catalysed

Im sorry to be negative but they aren’t really repairable easily

are you sure the centre angel is not veneered - I’d be surprised if it’s not.
 
Nope, I'm not certain it isn't a veneer or a ply because I cannot get to the edges without dismantling it.
The only place I know it not to be solid is the drawer backs which seem to be made of some staves.
When I say "water damage", I mean that ring stain, and next to it a patch of the finish is flaking off. We're not talking serious damage here, the timber is not warped.
 
OK, the top is not solid, it's made of strips, you can actually see them in that picture if you know where they are, but I still don't know if they're made of plies or single pieces of timber.
 
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Did the sandpaper clog slightly when you sanded it.

Often, the furniture from those oak furniture stores on the high street are sprayed with some kind of wax finish. That would certainly explain the white cup ring.

Try rubbing an area with meths and see what happens.

If it is a wax finish, you will need to thoroughly sand away the existing finish.

I recently had to paint some furniture for a client. I assumed that it was a sprayed lacquer. I likely sanded it and applied acrylic primer. It didn't pass the finger nail test. I ended up sanding all the way back to bare wood.
 
Yes, the sandpaper clogged. I reckon it's not wax, it's way too hard for that. Some parts are a bit tacky.
However. I have since sanded the top right down and put a couple of coats of Danish oil on and the colour is very similar to the existing finish, so I am pretty happy with it.
Will post a picture when daylight returns.
 
That's a much nice colour. I guess the old finish was oil based varnish which had yellowed.

Well played.
 
Well funnily enough....the Mrs said she couldn't tell I'd done anything, and that's because it's ended up looking very similar to the original finish. The first picture I posted was from my phone [rubbish camera] under artificial light, the second one is daylight taken with a proper camera. So the pictures look really different but the reality is much more similar and much less yellow.
 

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