Another newbie looking for direction

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jas
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Another newbie looking for direction

Postby jas » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:22 pm

I have recently been given a barrister bookcase as an anniversary gift, which I am in love with. Being over 100 years old, it has seen better days. It looks like it was painted at some point, and then later someone tried to strip the paint off. In one section, it looks like they scraped off some of the finish. In addition there is some tan/crusty substance on it that does not rub off.

I need some direction on how to repair the surface, but I have no idea where to start. I was able to remove most of the left over paint by very light rubbing. The paint seems to be in some of the grooves of the wood, and I am not sure how to remove it without additional damage to the surface.

My goal is to clean it up, but I don't want it to be "refinished." I love the character that time has given it, and some blemishes add to its charm. I would like to give it a good cleaning, even out the color and give it a bit of lusture. If brand names can be suggested, please share as that will help me find the correct items.

If I do it correctly, below are photos of ther most troublesome areas. Thank you in advance!
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AsonnyA
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Postby AsonnyA » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:46 am

Seems you want limited "restoration" to none at all.

If the glass doors are removable, remove them for better access.

I would attempt to clean off the white spots with 000 or 0000 steel wool, using a pointed probe in some places.

Since you don't want to refinish it: Test a spot by applying finger nail polish remover to see if the acetone melts the finish. *Not all finger nail polish removers have acetone. You need acetone. Otherwise go buy some lacquer thinner. If the present finish softens, when rubbed with lacquer thinner, then I would vigorously rub the whole book case with lacquer thinner. This should/may help blend the uneven covered areas.

If the lacquer thinner rub-down doesn't work to your satisfaction, there is no harm done by using the thinner. You'll/we'll just have to find another technque to try.

If you are not familiar with lacquer thinner, it evaporates fast and is highly volatile.... work outside. Wet a cloth, until almost dripping, and wipe/rub a square foot area, at a time. Work fast, the thinner will be evaporating and try to feather the edges of adjoining work areas. If the thinner melts the old finish, only experience, with working your particular piece, will allow you to blend or wipe off and/or get the feel of what rubbing results are best, as you go along.

Sonny

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Bob Boardman
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Postby Bob Boardman » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:34 am

Jas
I've done many of this type case. The finish on this is probably an aniline dye in a shellac base. To test, rub with either ammonia (not sudsy ammonia), or denatured alcohol. If the finish comes off, it's shellac. To remove all the color use either the ammonia or the den. alcohol. The ammonia doesn't evaporate as quickjly so you have more working time, but it stinks. The den alcohol doesn't stink, but it evaporates quickly. When done removing finish, apply a coat of either clear or orange (amber) shellac. Not only does the shellac show the character of the wood, it also has a nice patina. Test this process on the back of a leg, first.
Bob "Boardman" Borders

jas
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Postby jas » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:05 pm

Thank you so much. I was a bit intimidated by the steel wool, but after your response I broke down and picked some up. I guess my mind kept picturing SOS pads, and I was terrified to try it. This may be my new favorite product! After several hours (and what I suspect to be the missing finger-prints of a good thief) All the paint is off of one side, and a good portion of it is off the other.

In a few days I will do some testing with the other suggestions and let you know how it goes.

Thanks again!

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Postby Zeeman » Sat Jul 24, 2010 8:58 am

I respect the expertise of Bob and Sonny, but I have a totally different opinion. The character and different levels of finish are the history of the piece. After giving it a rubdown with the steel wool and removing the paint residue, try a sample wipe of a product called Formby's restore-a -finish. They have several tones, try the oak or walnut color. Adding a bit of color to the lighter areas with bring the piece together. You may need to apply it a few times if you like what it does in the first place.

Trying to remove the finish with solvents should be the last course of action. Unless you have experience with it, you could make a mess, and lacquer thinner is highly flammable, and a health hazard. If you can't accomplish your goals with less powerful chemicals, let a pro help you.

Tim

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Postby jas » Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:53 am

Please forgive my ignorance. Although I have always loved the idea of learning how to refinish diamonds in the rough, I have never trusted myself to begin such a project. Therefore I have never learned the first thing about doing so. Rather I have just marveled at the works that others accomplish.

As I said in my post, my goal is to do as little as possible to the shelf. It is cleaning up nicely, and there are only a few areas that will really need to be altered. Namely, the portion where the wood color has been unevenly removed.

I have looked at the restore a finish, but it seemed to be a product that would be similar to a wood stain. When you say that I don't want to alter the finish, is that the same thing? Can you explain to me exactly what this product does?

Also, when I read Sonny's response, I interpreted it like this; Using the thinner would sort of smear the color, so the darker areas would get lighter and the lighter areas would get darker. Am I reading that correctly?

Again, I am sorry to ask you experts to "talk down" to me, but I want to make sure I understand exactly what you are suggesting, so I do it correctly.

This project has been so inspiring! I am already looking at items with a new eye, picturing what they could be become with just a little work!

Thank you so very much for your help and patience.

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Postby Zeeman » Sat Jul 24, 2010 9:31 pm

You are on the right path.

Like all of us, turnig a crusty old piece into a clean old antique is inspiring and challenging. You read Sonny's suggestion correctly, and he is right, but I don't like the idea of using lacquer thinner to move the color around in large areas like this, especially if you have never used it before. What I see here is the whole piece as a certain color with areas that are damaged or taken off and are lighter.

Adding stain, restore-a-finish, or an amber shellac to "build" the color in those areas brings the finish together without altering the overall look. Some times you can get lucky. . .clean and scuff the light area and wipe on a stain that quickly tones the area to a close color. When you like the overall look, you can then add a single topcoat or wax to the whole piece to finish it and put it into service.

Keep us posted

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Postby AsonnyA » Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:44 pm

Sometimes trying a technique is a hit or miss adventure. Experience helps narrow the choices of techniques to try. So, in a way we are all correct. ... and I may apply Tim's and Bob's technique in a different way than they do (same technique, different approach or methodology, but basically the same).

I'll suggest, also, when you have spots (or areas where the finish is missing or weak), maybe try this to see if it works for your piece:
When I refinish oak chairs, with a similar finish as you seem to have (at least similar as best as the pictures are revealing to me), I also... sometimes.... use Minwax English Chestnut finish (get the smallest can) on bare or nearly bare spots, because English chestnut almost matches that old finish color as you seem to have. Your piece's color, I suspect, has darkened with age. Apply a bit of English Chestnut with a Q-Tip and rub it in/around, to see if it matches. Sometimes I'll apply a bit, let it sit a while, then wipe excess off, or gently wipe some of it off. Sometimes you just have to play with things, that way. Note, you can't cake it on, though, or it will take 2 weeks to dry. Sometimes this English Chestnut color beats trying to find the correct recipe for toning, say, lacquer or shellac, if you want to try that or a similar approach.

With lacquer thinner, yes, do your work outside and be careful, it is volatile.

Sonny

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Re: Another newbie looking for direction

Postby LPE » Sun Dec 16, 2018 9:50 am

Can anyone tell me how to remove the barrister bookcase doors? I need to get in there, clean and oil them as they are sticking

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Bob Boardman
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Re: Another newbie looking for direction

Postby Bob Boardman » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:49 am

Posting a picture of the doors and hinges would be helpful
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