One of my long time customers had me look at an old lacquered table she had gotten several years ago. It is not an unusually valuable piece but it is, as you can see, charming.
The problem is to efficiently restore the top to match the existing finish.The very first thing to try is a clean soft cloth dampened with solvent alcohol. This will probably remove the water rings immediately and you are all done. If there is other damage then proceed.
The first thing to do is to clean the top.Test a small area on the table with your cleaner first to ensure that your cleaner will not strip or mar the finish. Liquid sander, PASO brand, is my favorite. Ammonia water or solvent alcohol can also be used. Refrain from the use of lacquer thinner since it will ruin the finish--quickly.
Now that the top is clean it is time to get some good photographs to document the artwork on the top. Digital photos are the way to go since you can check you work immediately and see if you did indeed get some good images. The large image afforded by the monitor is a great help when you need to examine detail. Once you get some good pics you can break out the artist's acrylics and match the different colors in the top. You will refer to these colors as you re-color the top. You might be wondering why it is necessary to physically match color when you have a perfectly good picture of it. Trust me. If you want accuracy it is not quite the same. You will need to take your color match samples to Metro Paint to get them formulated in an interior latex eggshell finish.
Once you are happy with your matches then you can spray on a coat of dewaxed shellac onto the freshly cleaned top. A couple of thin coats are much better than one thick, globby coat. (And take it out of doors to do the deed. They use methyl chloride for some reason to get it to work out of a spray can. Methyl Chloride is genuinely nasty stuff and is not to be trifled with.) Be sure that you get "dewaxed" shellac rather than regular shellac. Dewaxed shellac is the universal sealer. Everything sticks to it; it sticks to everything. Also it dries in about 40 minutes. (This is a good time to get your samples matched. The shellac will be dry by the time you return.) This layer of shellac is a "barrier coat".
Once your shellac is dry then you can apply your first of two coats of top coat. One inch blue tape is in order here to keep paint where paint belongs. Take care in pulling tape to avoid lifting fresh paint from top. Use a good brush-I like Woosters. A cheap brush will ruin the work. Ignore this advice at your peril. Follow directions on label of paint can. Be sure and clean your nice new brush-it will last a while if kept clean. Put dry brush back in stiff paper wrapper(called a "shuck" in the trade.) to keep bristles from deforming.
Once your basecoats have dried then you can begin on copying artwork using artists' brushes or push brooms, if you prefer. Artwork having dried, you can spray more dewaxed shellac onto top. After that dries you can smear on a couple of coats of floor wax and buff that at the appropriate time. I use Trewax (follow directions on can.) which you can also get at Metro. It has carnauba in it and dries very hard indeed. You can re-wax from time to time. Wax gives it such a nice patina. (But you still need coasters. :) Hope this helps, Mimi. Blessings to you and Jay.