I have a hemlock rustic dining room table with a semi gloss finish. I recently tried to buff a smudged area with 0000 steel wool and paste wax. It left a haze with surface scratches on the finish. How do I fix this?

  • Depending on how deep the scratches are you might be able to use plain old furniture polish. Not recommending anything in particular, but something like Pledge should be ok.
    – Ben Welborn
    May 11 '16 at 14:36
  • They are surface scratches and I tried furniture polish and it did not work. You can still see the haze and scratches. The table is in a bright sunny room and the scratches are more visible with the sunlight.
    – L. Ritter
    May 11 '16 at 15:15
  • Try buffing it with Kraft paper?
    – keshlam
    May 12 '16 at 3:30

You've scratched the finish and you need to polish/buff out the scratches.

Before we begin I'll be upfront with you here, because your table has a semi-gloss finish it may be very difficult indeed to buff out an area and have it exactly match the sheen of the surrounding varnish.

Buffing out varnish can be done using a number of polishing agents (see previous Answer). But before you go and get a product to try to repair the finish you may actually get some traction using a couple of things you probably have in the house already.

Possible quick-and-dirty fix
Just by buffing with some cloth (e.g. denim) or even brown paper (!) could be enough here. For the denim or a paper bag the inside surface is usually the one to go with, slightly rougher in both cases.

There's no downside to trying either or both of these first since they won't further harm the varnish. If you don't get quite the result you're looking for you can move up to a commercial polishing agent.

I would try the brown paper first, working gently at first and then increasing pressure. If it's still a bit hazy move to the denim. Buff firmly with this, you can usually raise a pretty decent shine on varnish with denim and some elbow grease.

What to do if the area remains clearly visible
This is going to seem radical but you might consider using your 0000 steel wool and paste wax to work the entire table surface. Finish with long strokes following the grain, trying to go the full length of the table if possible.

Once the surface is all scuffed to a consistent light haze you can then decide how to proceed. It is much easier to work all of a surface to a uniform sheen than to try to do one spot and get it to seamlessly match what's around it (unless the surface is a full-on gloss).

But you might actually discover than once scuffed uniformly that you can live with the table as it stands — many pros actually get a satin surface by scuffing up gloss poly using steel wool so this is a widely accepted finish.

  • Over the weekend I cleaned the table with mineral spirits to remove any wax or oil residue. Then I used Howards restore-a-finish in golden oak color and it worked beautifully. I applied 2 coats over the whole table and it covered the scratches.
    – L. Ritter
    May 16 '16 at 13:16
  • @L.Ritter, nice to hear you managed to fix the finish on the table.
    – Graphus
    May 16 '16 at 13:36
  • I discovered after the Howards restore-a-finish soaked into the wood, the scratches and a little haze it still there. Not as noticeable as before but I would still like to eliminate all the haze and scratches. It is noticeable because the table is in my sunroom.
    – L. Ritter
    May 19 '16 at 12:56

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