Durability of Table-Top Finishes

Even the toughest clear finish is subject to scratching and wear. You need to make customers aware of that. July 17, 2008

I just returned from an inspection of a dining table I delivered 4 weeks ago. The table has a hairline scratch in the finish caused by the plastic buckle on her child's backpack. The pack had 1 schoolbook in it (so it was not very heavy) and was slid across the table. The customer also had a vase leak water on the top, causing a slight ring that I was able to easily remove. I recently switched over from Antoni pre- to post-cat lacquer hoping to give my customers a tougher, more durable finish. Is it unrealistic to expect the finish to hold up a little better under these conditions? Have I possibly oversold the durability of the finish to the client and therefore need to re-educate her on the do's and don'ts of post cat lacquers?

I carefully follow the manufacturer specs for catalyst ratio and keep my shop consistently above 65 degrees. I am going to repair the table top no matter who's to blame, because this particular client gives me 3-5 quality referrals per month. I am looking for input to educate myself and better inform my customers.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
If I were doing a table top, I would be using a polyurethane, not a lacquer. Even though Antoni is a great lacquer, it is not designed for everyday wear and tear.

From contributor P:
I always downplay durability because people have unrealistic expectations. I tell them the finish isn't as tough as the finish on their car (even though it usually is) and if they wouldn't do whatever it is they're thinking about doing to their car, they really shouldn't do it to their new furniture/cabinetry.

From contributor C:
I agree with contributor P. There are no bulletproof/childproof finishes - not even polyester, which is supposed to be 95% plus the hardness of glass - which it is not really, in the sense of scratch-proofness, etc. I tell my customers how to care for it no matter what finish it is, that care is not to put hot plates, etc. on it, avoid standing water, alkaline chemical cleaners, alcohol, and to wipe up spills as soon as possible. Clean with a creamulsion polish and/or wax occasionally. Never tout the coating's durability unless you personally have tested it in all situations to know firsthand that you can do so without personal liability.

From contributor R:
You can scratch a steel plate. No finish can stand up to abuse. A dining table should have a pad and table cloth on it when being used. Conference tables always get beat up because they are not protected. At least with a high gloss finish you can always buff out any scratches. Off-the-gun satin finishes are a real problem. A glass top cut to fit is an option, but even when glass is placed on a top to protect it, the glass will get scratched up eventually. So it really is up to the owner of the table to properly care for and protect the top from damage. One of the beauties of a lacquer or oil type finish is the ease of repair in these situations...