I started a project last week that has turned into a nightmare. It started many years ago when busylizzy and I inherited a very nice dining room set that had been in her family for many years. It was solid Maple and as such was a very hard wood and has seen little in the way of damage ever the years. Indeed, the only thing wrong with it, is the finish. It has deteriorated over the years and as the clear coat aged, it turned sticky. It is embarrassing when your guests think they are eating at a sticky table that just needs a good wash. But all the washing in the world will not solve this problem.
So, I tried to strip and re-finish last week. I could not find a chemical stripper that would touch it so I resorted to using a heat gun. Normally, the paint or varnish will bubble and wrinkle and scrape right off. This stuff would soften, and then smoke and burn, so I had to press very hard and very carefully to scrape every inch of it off, exerting great pressure and burning my fingers as I had to get very close to the heat source and find the fine line between burning the wood and just softening the finish. I then cleaned and sanded, very thoroughly to remove any contamination. I then applied a penetrating stain to even out the colour and 24 hours later gave it the first coat of polyurethane. I immediately noticed the fish eyes.
The fish eye effect happens when there is silicone on the surface to be finished and the polyurethane is rejected at that spot and forms a ring around the silicone. But where did the silicone come from. I researched for hours and think I know. It had been probably cleaned many times with a furniture polish or cleaner that left a shine, the shine being a product that contained silicone. As the finish aged and developed tiny pores and lesions, the silicone seeped in and embedded itself in the wood. It needs to be removed with Naptha, or ammonia cleaners, but before the polyurethane goes on. I now have two coats of poly on and this will not go away, but only get more pronounced. The only solution is to totally strip the table again and start anew, this time making sure the silicone is all gone. This is now turning into a monster project whose outcome is in question. What if I clean as per instruction and then find more fish eyes. busylizzy says, "Then just paint it". Unbeknownst to her, the latent silicone will reject primers and paint also. I may be ready to take an axe to this project in a day or two. Literally.