How to Restore Heat & Water Damaged Antique Dropleaf Tabletop

My favorite part of refinishing furniture is saving the memories of pieces and creating a whole new life for well-loved furniture.

This antique drop-leaf table belonged to one of my favorite and best client's great-grandmothers. Over the years, it suffered water and heat damage.

Years before we met, she had taken it to someone to 'restore' the top but it was returned with the water rings still visible. She was told there wasn't any way to remove them. The picture below is how the table looked after it was 'restored.' Yes, she actually paid good money for this to happen.

Unfortunately, there's no magic product to get rid of water rings and heat damage. Well, that's not exactly true. It's called sanding. And more sanding. And restaining. If there was such a wonder product, furniture restorers would be in big trouble. 

Since she wanted to keep as much of the table original as possible, I needed to find a stain to match the apron and legs. Matching a furniture manufacturer stain is tricky business since they typically custom mix their own stain instead of buying it pre-mixed. So, it's not as easy as going to a home improvement store and picking one up.

After sanding the top down to bare wood, I tested a few stain colors to see if I could find a matching shade without having to custom mix one.  General Finishes Candlelight ended up being a near perfect match. 

The water and damage is gone and my client's heirloom table finally has its happy ending.

Looking at the table now, you'd never knew the top once had water and heat damage!  The newly stained top beautifully matches the original finish on the apron and legs.

I'll never forget the look on my client's face when she saw her truly restored dropleaf table. That makes all the sanding worthwhile.  :)