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I have an old table that I'm working on. I initially was just taking off the wobbly feet and putting them back on more firmly. But I was wondering if there's a good way to fix up the scratches. There's a top surface which looks like this:

top surface

And then legs that look like this:

legs

I'm not sure what kind of coating was applied originally. For the top, it would be somewhat feasible to sand it down and start again. But I'd rather not because there are lots of matching fiddly bits around the side and on the legs (as you can see) that would not be easy to sand and recoat and so would likely end up not matching.

I guess my ideal would be to touch it up somehow. But I'm interested in any opinions and thoughts on this.

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    Apologies, but as an experienced SE user may I suggest the first thing you do is scan the archives? Then re-state the Q if you find it's still necessary. As far as refinishing goes, it's quite commonplace for tabletops only to be completely refinished during restoration, since of course they take the brunt of normal wear & tear, light damage and accidental physical damage so I wouldn't worry about doing that in isolation if you decide that's the way you want to go. This is a judgement call but FWIW it's what I'd do, but not after sanding the original finish off as you'll see [contd]
    – Graphus
    Sep 27 at 17:02
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    This is my consistent, long-standing advice here and it's highly relevant to your table since the top is veneered and you don't want to risk sanding through it. Although if the table is reasonably old the veneer won't be super thin it's still a bad call (actually the worst way to remove old finish, hands down) under normal circumstances. Unfortunately you are in California, which I believe severely limits your stripper options. If you had access to methylene chloride strippers that would be ideal; many 'green' strippers contain water, which poses another risk to old veneer (i.e. the glue).
    – Graphus
    Sep 27 at 17:10
  • That's helpful. My instinct was not to sand the top because it's veneer, so thank you for confirming that.
    – Dr Xorile
    Sep 27 at 17:35
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I was wondering if there's a good way to fix up the scratches

A simple way to touch up scratched finish is with scratch cover products. I have never used one, but I think you will get a good visual result on the scratches from the images I have seen showing 'before and after':

enter image description here

I won't link to specific product as this one remains oily, but all give similar results.

The watermarks I think will remain and have to be dealt with on their own, for many tips see How do I remove a watermark?

I'm not sure what kind of coating was applied originally.

The top veneer is walnut but the legs seem like pale wood with dark finish. Unless the table is antique and has never been refinished it is colored lacquer or varnish 100%.

Maybe you could touch up the legs by small brush or sponge using a similar product? Gel stain in walnut/dark walnut tone may give the right result.

P.S. Gel stain can also be used as scratch cover because more remains in scratches after the surface is wiped off, so maybe you can do the entire table with one can.

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    The stain really worked well. Thanks
    – Dr Xorile
    Sep 28 at 15:20
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    @DrXorile, wow that was quick! That's the fastest "I tried this and it worked" I've seen in aaages. One thing worth adding here is that you might want to use a clear coat too. Used primarily for its scratch-hiding ability "gel stain" doesn't strictly need an overcoat (as it would if applied to bare wood) but I think based on the water marks the finish on the top sorely needs to be topped up so to speak. The legs don't need it (although add it there too if you like, can't hurt) and be sure to carry it over the edge just to be on the safe side. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Sep 28 at 18:09
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    I would recommend using DIY wiping varnish for this, and you'll find pretty much full instructions in this previous Answer.
    – Graphus
    Sep 28 at 18:09

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