My wife and I bought a beautiful 3 x 5 ft cherry coffee table some time ago. I should have paid closer attention and realized that it was not finished with any sort of lacquer or urethane - the wood is stained a simple red-brown, but otherwise bare. As a result, it's pretty beat up but only on the top surface of the table. Is it possible to simply seal the top surface with a strong oil urethane if the wood is cleaned properly and the scratches and dings are filled? I've used different fillers for scratches in other projects and never been happy with them (especially the color), so any advice there would be appreciated.

I think the best finish will come from sanding down, re-staining the top, and finishing it, but I'm a bit concerned about the stain. I've stained and finished plenty of new wood in the past, but have very little experience matching stains. I'm not convinced the stain I find would match and I'd rather not sand the entire table to stain the whole thing.

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If the wood is dented rather than cut/gouged, you can steam dents out with a clothes iron (preferably a steam iron, but not required if you keep the washcloth damp), a damp washcloth, and some patience.

If it's actually cherry, and not just "whatever, with stain, called cherry since we used a reddish brown stain" it is best to remove and not replace the stain. It will start rather light, but age beautifully with time. But that is a matter of opinion. Your best bet with re-staining it is to take the whole thing back to wood, and re-stain the whole thing if you are going to do that - then it will all match. However, some slight mismatch between the top and the rest of the piece will not be as glaring as a mismatch between two halves of the same part. Try to find some similar scrap and test your finish process and colors on that.

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