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How to remove stubborn lacquer from coffee table

I am refinishing an old, maybe antique, mahogany coffee table. I tried Jasco as a stripper and even used three applications as per can instructions with very little success. I ended up very carefully using a belt sander on the top! The legs are curved with indentations so I can not belt sand them. What does a good job of removing lacquer?

Jim Grissom
hobbyist - Eagle, Idaho, USA
November 21, 2011

Hi, Jim.

You are probably calling it "lacquer" for want of a better word rather than to clearly distinguish it from possibly being epoxy or polyurethane or something else. Therein is the problem: if you don't know what something is, then there is no single best solvent. I would try straight acetone [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] (or nail polish remover) on the guess that it might be a nitrocellulose lacquer. Then I'd try a strong methylene chloride based stripper (outside!) recognizing that rubber gloves [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] and goggles [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] and no breathing of the fumes is essential as this is really toxic stuff. There are services that offer stripping in hot caustic, but this may be expensive and may not be applicable to this wood coffee table.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 22, 2011

If the coating is really a "lacquer", if would not be cured, just applied and the solvent allowed to evaporate. That's why people in the past were picky about drinks containing alcohol being spilled on them -- it would dissolve the coating. An ester, I used (quick start) once when someone put graffiti on my car using a cheap tinted lacquer from a spray can, or alcohol should work. If it's not a lacquer but a cured finish of some sort you can wet a cloth with MEK / methyl ethyl ketone add salt and rub the coating off. This will get into intricate areas with the MEK hopefully dissolving or at least softening the coating and the salt abrading it away.

Ronald Zeeman
Coil Coating - Brampton, Ontario, Canada
November 24, 2011

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