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I have an old Chess set which has been in storage in what would appear to be less than ideal conditions. (Photo taken with flash.)

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One half of the box (on one side only, ie the half that is not shown in the image is as fresh as the left side here) is very dull looking. Other than the colour there is no obvious damage. I do not know what has happened to it.

What is the easiest way to achieve uniform appearance?

Edit: the "damaged" side was uppermost I believe, and there were other things on top. I did not notice excessive amounts of dust around it. Wiping with alcohol does not have any effect.

  • This looks like light damage, but it could be damp damage in which case it may indicate it had a very thin finish on it or nothing at all, although that seems unlikely. In either case the only good solution may be to remove any existing finish (to get down to bare wood), treat the wood to remove the discolouration or sand/scrape it off, then refinish. First thing to check is whether a drop or water or spirits change the discoloured area back to something like the left side. If it does you're in luck as a light refresh of the existing finish may do the trick. – Graphus Jun 24 at 17:40
  • Meant to ask, was this side uppermost when you dug it out of storage and was there a layer of dust on the right side? Dust sitting on a finish for a long time can damage it. – Graphus Jun 24 at 17:44
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I would first clean the whole thing up with mineral spirits (not alcohol) and then try something like feed n wax on it. Definitely test this only on a small section (preferably a non visible section) first to see how it looks compared to the existing finish.

Alternatively I would recommend a natural danish oil. I think any colorless oil finish will darken the damaged side enough to blend it right into the non-damaged side, and danish oil has the advantage of also being a varnish so it will provide additional protection from water.

Either way whatever you use, you should try to test it on a small area that is not easily visible to see the results before finishing the entire piece.

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I have refinished a lot of furniture, and I think a nice risk free place to start with a piece like that is to polish it with mineral oil. Mineral oil is safe, good for wood, and has no odor. With just a small amount on a clean soft cloth, rub the piece all over, discolored area and undamaged area.

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