Have a questions on finishing, refinishing, or restoring <br />wood furniture or cabinetry? This is the place to ask!

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Postby SRNHH1 » Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:55 pm

Several days ago I purchased an Antique Morbier Clock. My wife and I were attracted to the mid-1800 clock because of the aged patina of the clock case, a nice tea stain hue formed by an aged finish applied over paint. This clock was stored in an unheated attic for many-many years.

The ATTACHED illustrates the issue, it is the lower panel of the clock's front with its feet, the whole front of the clock is finished the same way, paint than a coating. I’ve been out on the internet and I think (guessing) it might represent “perishing varnish”. I can certainly feel the raised dried droplets of finish and so the question, how can I retain the aged patina, get it to a smooth finish and seal it from further damage. I’ve restored some grandfather cases before with hazed/cracked finishes but never had to worry about a layer of paint I want to preserve. Maybe there is a method to lightly dissolve the droplets so the surface becomes smooth then I can lightly sand and apply another coat of something......Thanks for your advice.............

MORBIER thumb.jpg
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Postby AsonnyA » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:33 pm

You need to find out what kind of finish is on the piece, before you can confidently attempt to remove it.

Wipe an inconspicuous spot ( on the side or back) with denatured alcohol.... see if the finish melts or comes off. If it does, then strip the piece with DA. DA is unlikely to remove the paint.

A dedicated stripper will likely affect the paint. Acetone (lacquer thinner) will likely affect the paint, also. Lacquer may not have been applied as the present finish, since its solvent could have compromised the paint.

There's all kinds of finish recipes that folks conjured up, long ago. An oil based finish ( like with linseed oil) may be more problematic to remove, in your scenario. A long term attic environment may affect an oil based finish, as you have, more so, than a non-oil based finish.


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Bob Boardman
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Postby Bob Boardman » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:41 am

I'd follow Sonny's advice about testing with Denatured Alcohol. If the finish is in fact shellac, and IF you're up to a little extra work, you may be able to reconstitute the old shellac rather than removing it. Notice I say "may". To do this do the following:

The basic concept is to make a ball out of an 8” x 8” piece of cotton from an old, worn t-shirt that has just come out of the dryer (dryer reduces any lint). Place this ball inside a bigger 12" x 12" piece of cotton. Wrap the bigger piece of cloth around the smaller one, wrapping the extra around your index finger – this is called your “rubber”. Add some DA (not rubbing alcohol) to the rubber and pat it against the palm of your hand (this is called "charging the pad or rubber". You want the pad to be damp, not wet. Then use a pendulum type motion to have the rubber touch the surface & come right off...almost like a plane coming in for a landing and then taking off again. DO NOT LET THE PAD STOP ON THE SURFACE. The trick is to dampen the cloth just enough so it leaves the appearance of a comet’s tail of evaporating alcohol trailing as you wipe. (You can practice by wiping across a more resistant surface such as plastic laminate.) If the pad starts to stick, then charge it again. You'll have to go over spots 2 or 3 times, but the alcohol will "re-melt" the old shellac
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