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I recently started using this desk, last used by an old relative I'm very fond of.

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There's a wide array of scratches and marks on it:

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I like that it's worn, but I'd like to know if it's possible to restore it without also damaging some of the existing features (like the look of the different woods).

I'm expecting any range of answers from "Boot polish/tea bags on the bits that are worn" to "taking it apart is the only way", all welcome.

  • Yes you can usually do spot repairs, even to finishes that are widely held to be unrepairable (not just by amateurs but also by some pros who don't specialise in the work). But the seamlessness of the repair can vary, from fairly obviously retouched (even to a non-pro) to "What damage?" The nature and extent of the finish repairs needed, and the original finish, will guide what processes to use. First thing to do is to determine if the colour is mostly or entirely in the finish, so wet a finger and touch it to a scrape and see how much (if any) of the colour returns. – Graphus Feb 28 '19 at 14:48
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Start with a colored oil based poly (Polyshades) or varnish close to the sheen and colour, then use artist oils to match the colour. This process can be a little tedious mix in small batches adjusting very slowly.

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Yes, but only with great effort. You can use stain to cover them up though.

it's a little hard to tell from the pictures, but the desk appears to be finished with a stain or glaze, followed by a glossy protective topcoat. Removing scratches completely is basically impossible without sanding down the entire surface and refinishing. I would recommend making your peace with this sort of of wear, and accepting them as patina. If the light color is unsightly, there are some products you can use to make them blend in better (although you will still feel the presence of scratches/dents when you run your hand over). These are generally sold as scratch covers/removers. You can of course use shoe polish. I would recommend trying lighter shades first, as the bare wood is likely to suck up the stain and appear darker than the liquid does.

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  • Minor scrapes like this can be repaired sometimes with almost no effort. Most of the time involved might be waiting for finish to dry. – Graphus Feb 28 '19 at 14:52

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