Once again, I've been absent for so long, I'm not sure any of you are still out there anymore. But I hope you are! I'll need to spend some time photographing and writing about my latest finds. Until then heres a new post some of you may find helpful: the wonders of Restore-a-Finish!
Restore-a-finish has saved and restored countless pieces of my furniture and even my awful 1980's oak kitchen cabinets. You can purchase it at Orchard Supply Hardware (in California), sometimes Home Depot, on ebay, and often times at your local antique stores. In fact, it was at an antique store that I first bought mine. I'd seen it for years but had never really given it much thought. One day I was trying to come up with a way to revive the original mahogany paneling in our hallway and I figured I'd give it a shot. I was amazed at the difference it made.
You apply Restore-a-finish with 0000 fine steel wool. Sounds weird, but it really works. Not only does it moisturize the thirsty wood and bring back much of the finish, but the roughness of the steel wool actually cleans the wood too. Once it's been sitting on the wood a few minutes, simply wipe away the excess with a clean cotton cloth (an old t-shirt is perfect). I literally scrubbed away (make sure to scrub WITH the grain) old paint splatters that had been on my wall paneling for years. The steel wool also removed those ugly black scuff marks that covered the base of my rattan furniture's feet (you know what I'm talking about!) and even water rings in the wood of my champagne Heywood-Wakefield end tables. I've used it for my entire rattan bar, made my faded and water stained kitchen cabinets look (almost) new again, and totally revitalized my 50's dresser. It works for scratches, many stains, and just breathing new life into pieces in general.
Restore-a-finish comes in several finishes: mahogany, oak, neutral, etc. If you know specifically which finish you have, purchase accordingly. Neutral works best for "blonde" woods like Heywood -Wakefield champagne and most rattans/bamboos. An important thing to note: if the finish on your piece is completely gone- as in the wood is basically dry and naked,-Restore-a-finish isn't going to do much for you. The wood will just soak it up and it is not the same as actually applying a real finish to the piece. I know once you try it, you will love it. Good luck, and happy finishing!