Furniture Finishing, Refinishing, & Restoration
Q&A Forum - Will waxing do it?
daveking66 - Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:57 am
Post subject: Will waxing do it?
Dear polishing community,
I recently bought a turn of the century oak cabinet which I've gave a good scrub with detergent (I know, my first mistake) to irradicate the strong smell of cigarttes which which had unforutunately permaeted the woodwork.
This has pretty much done the trick but has resulted in a significant deterioration of the finished surface. Peeling of the uppermost layer has started and bare wood can be seen in some of the worst affected patches.
Having said this it does retain the vast majority of the original finish, albeit in a somewhat shabby appearance, with numerous scratches and fading.
My question is whether I can improve the appearance of the cabinet without going through the hassle of completing a full removal of the current finish? Beside the additional work I fear that refinishing may change the overhall hue of the wood, of which I am rather fond, and unlikely to rematch precisely.
Applying alcohol (methylated spirits) appears to dissolve the finish which has allowed some of the bare patches to be lended in with surrounding area.
I've coducted this test on a small area only and am wandering if this method can be used all over to redistribute the remaining finish to co create a more uniform coverage which can then be finished off with a wax paste.
If anyone has experience I'd be grateful. I'm keen not to repeat any further mistakes without expert guidance!
Thanks for your help,
AsonnyA - Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:38 pm
> I'm keen not to repeat any further mistakes
Mistakes? What mistakes?
If cleaning with simple detergent caused some, so called, finish to be removed, then the "finish" was poor to the point that it needed to be removed. If simple cleaning caused the finish to come off, it was probably already coming off... you just didn't notice how it was likely already lifting. *Unless there was something else you did, during the cleaning, that you're not telling us, that caused the finish to come off.
The use of alcohol amounts to testing the finish, a common method used. The alcohol let us know the finish is shellac... that's good to know. If there is any more small bits of dirt or grime, still on the piece, redistributing the finish (with the dirt & grime) may not be such a good thing.
Your procedures weren't wrong. They detected discrepancies/problems in/with the finish on the piece. If the finish is that bad, then don't skimp on refinishing it properly. Refinishing it using quick-fix methods would be "the mistake", I think.
From what I can tell, I personally would strip the cabinet.
At this point, you have to make the call, as to if you are up to stripping the piece. I don't think you might patchwork-fix the finish, as it is, and do it justice. I would suspect there still may be some questionable/suspect areas of the remaining finish.... *at least based on the desription you have given. Can you re-evaluate the scenario and give us some further feedback and possibly a/some pictures.
Bob Boardman - Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:04 pm
Sonny: Grest Post
Dave: When you rub with alcohol is there any color change? Also is the finish clear or colored?
With a shellac finish, you may not have to strip at all. You can shoot a new coat of shellac over the old and it will blend right in. unles it's a colored or diff grade shellac.
Another option that uses the existing shellac is to dampen (not wet, just lightly dampen) a clean rag with the alcohol, and use a motion like a plane coming in for a landing and then taking off again. Using this pendulum motion go over the areas around bare spots and "move" the shellac onto the good spots.
Bottom line, just as Sonny says "give us some further feedback and possibly a/some pictures"
daveking66 - Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:01 am
Thanks for the feedback chaps,
I'm liking the sound of Bobs suggestion to reapply more shellac and blend in with what remains of the original finish.
Should this prove unsuccessful, or result in an undesirable finish, will I be able to simply take up Sonnys suggestion of going for a full strip?
To give you the full picture on my intensive detoxification process, I scrubbed the heck out of it with a brush, hot water, detergent, soda crystals and a UK product we call sugar soap used for cleaning surfaces prior to decorating or repainting. All used in separate applications (not mixed) This produced LOTS of stained water, which I assumed was the nicotine residues coming out, but in retrospect, may have also been the stain in the wood. I kept scrubbing until the water ran pretty much clear.
After several hours, many changes of water, exposure to the elements, and some spring sunshine I am at least left with a cabinet which has lost much of it's offensive odour.
Anyway, regarding colour change on application of alcohol (meths) there actually appears to be TWO things going on. On the solid outer frames of the doors smearing with alcohol has made a great job of blending in the remaining finish to cover any bare spots and create a uniform finish with NO appreciable colour change occurring.
The internal base of the cabinet has a veneered finish though and seems to lack the glossy finish of other areas It may also simply have less finish. On the patch tested, application of alcohol here has resulted in COMPLETE REMOVAL of the finish exposing bare wood AND on drying appears to have resulted in a general DARKENING of the patch tested too
I’ll try to get some pictures to you today (I need to borrow a digital camera) so you can make a more informed appraisal of the issues I face.
daveking66 - Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:25 am
Also is the finish clear or colored?
It's a classic dark stain Victorian / Edwardian finish
AsonnyA - Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:00 am
Yes, considering you have apparently cleaned it pretty well, Bob's recommendation is a good, likely the best, approach. For any discrepancies in color, any new shellac applied can be tinted to help match any coloring.... or gloss, re: the internal base.
daveking66 - Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:41 pm
Post subject: Will waxing do it? (photos)
Here at last is a picture of the cabinet in question.
Please let me know if this sheds any new light on the proposed plan of attack.
And let me know if any further close ups are required. I've just about sussed out how to clip images to the demanding requirements of the forum!
Bob Boardman - Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:02 pm
Looks like shellac to me. I'd test by applying some shellac to an inconspicuous spot (back of a leg for example). I have a feeling it will be the same color and will make the piece look like new. I'd light sand with a 220 grit & vacuum up dust first, though.
AsonnyA - Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:26 pm
I agree with Bob.
Additionally: An oak cabinet, heh? For that age, the alignment of the doors looks pretty darn good, i.e., I don't see any hint of warpage or misalignment, anywhere. Oak is very prone to warping over time, unless the wood is carefully selected.
I would suspect the oak is quarter sawn and the maker did a very good job of constructing that cabinet..... well worth taking good care to restore it properly.
If you remove the doors, to better access your refinishing, mark the hinges so that they will be replaced at their original hinge mortise position. If you remove the doors, to work on them individually, keep them flat on your work surface.... don't allow them to be bent or skewered (out of plane) in any fashion. Also, if applicable, don't allow sunlight to shine on, say, half the door frame, during your working. Once the bare (or nearly bare) wood is exposed, a slight differentiation of the environment may facilitate even some slight warpage because of temp variation and/or humidity.... though the cabinet may have been exposed to some of this sort of environmental variation all along. I'm surprised those top doors, especially, haven't shown some evidence of even the slightest skewing of alignment. That, to me, is evidence of quality wood and workmanship.
daveking66 - Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:01 am
That's great, thanks for the confirmation.
Yes it’s in pretty good nick, solidly constructed and I was quite pleased with it for an outlay of £115 Sterling.
The doors aren’t perfectly aligned, but do close albeit with a bit of encouragement. This may be caused by the hinges though, which are a little loose, so will take the opportunity to address this too. Replacing the glass with some original rippled Edwardian style would be the icing on the cake, but that job can wait.
Regarding the prep required before I apply the new shellac;
Is the rub down just to ensure a nice smooth finish?
I take it I’m not looking to sand down to bare wood and want to retain as much of the original finish as possible right?
And what would you say about attempting to redistribute the remaining finish more evenly using alcohol beforehand?
As mentioned previously, rubbing with alcohol produced mixed results depending on which area of the cabinet to which it was applied.
daveking66 - Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:50 am
At least I think it's oak. Here's another close showing some more grain.
Bob Boardman - Tue Mar 20, 2012 4:43 pm
I agree with Sonny - it's def. oak.
The sanding is for two reasons: 1) to remove any loose shellac (the new shellac will melt right into the old, but the old may still contain some dirst/dust/debris), & 2) to remove any "hairs" & level any raised grain resulting from the water you used.
You do NOT want to sand down to bare wood.
I think you'll find that adding new shellac to the old will not only bring the finish "back", but will give you a slightly thicker finish. By thicker, I'm talking about hundreds of an inch, so don't get concerned. You'll also get a more even coat of finish by applying the new, vs redistributing the old (and it's easier, too).
daveking66 - Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:21 am
Bob cheers for that,
The following article includes instructions for applying which includes a detailed account of a "padding" technique, which sounds similar to the pendulum tchnique you mentioned earlier.
Can you let me know if this would be the best method for a newbie to have a crack at? Or would I best off with a brush?
Bob Boardman - Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:42 am
Padding will definitely work, but it's a lot more work. You might want to test using a brush on one inconspicuous spot, and then using the padding technique on another. At the end of the test, you decide, based on the look and the effort.
PS: I know Jeff Jewitt the author of the article, and moderate the repair forum on his website.
daveking66 - Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:11 pm
Bob, thanks for that, small world eh?
I'm now about to buy some shellac and would like to know whether I will need two different hues?
I've attached another image showing one of the badly affected areas where there is barely any of the original finish left, and am wondering if this would require a darker shade of shellac than the rest of the cabinet, or whther any other form of treatment would be required before applying the shellac.
Can you please let me know what you think?
PS have started rubbing down with 600 Grit paper and it has made the finish of the cabinet feel like glass, and not taken away barely any of the remaining finish. This leaves me hopeful that the finished product is going to look great.
Bob Boardman - Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:34 pm
Can't tell from photos. Suggest you test first on inside of a leg or some other inconspicuous spot