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Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set



 
 
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  #1  
Old December 17th 12, 03:24 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 64
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

I was just given the go-head to refinish my wife's parent's old dining room set. It was purchased in 1940 (my wife still has the receipt!) and it is in dire need of refinishing. There are 70 years worth of fingerprints all over the backs of the chairs and there are several nice gouges in the top of the buffet. The finish on the top of the backs of chairs is really coming off, too, and you can see different colored wood starting to show up on all four of the chairs. Of course, there are a lot of scratches on the table top from cats and kids and whatever over the years. And you can see all the cracks and discoloration of the old varnish--at least I think it is varnish.

That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have used seventy years ago?

Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any sort of poly.

The chairs are getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works.

One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now? She was born 20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set looked like in 2012.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old December 17th 12, 04:39 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 5,033
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

wrote:


That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to
finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have
used seventy years ago?


Why do you really care what they used 70 years ago?


Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I
would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any
sort of poly.


Why do you say you certainly don't want to use any poly?


The chairs are getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are
anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be
worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the
kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into
really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works.


Ok - since it is apparent you do not want ot use any modern methods and
products, then go ahead and use a syringe. What the hell - today's
adhesives just can't be any better than what they used back then.


One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire
set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now?


Why would that be?

She was born
20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be
on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I
guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will
be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by
then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set
looked like in 2012.


Or - you can do what the people do that restore furniture for a living. A
quick google search will show you a lot of things that are apparently
contrary to what you've already said you want to do. Your call...

--

-Mike-



  #3  
Old December 17th 12, 05:14 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 2,292
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

On Mon, 17 Dec 2012 07:24:06 -0800, busbus wrote:

And you can see all the cracks and discoloration of the old varnish--at
least I think it is varnish.

That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to finish
the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have used
seventy years ago?


The cracking would indicate varnish, but rubbing it with a little alcohol
(not rubbing alcohol) would show if it were shellac. Alcohol won't
affect varnish.

--
When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and
carrying a cross.
  #4  
Old December 17th 12, 06:24 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 2,091
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

On Monday, December 17, 2012 7:24:06 AM UTC-8, wrote:
I was just given the go-head to refinish my wife's parent's old dining room set. It was purchased in 1940 (my wife still has the receipt!) and it is in dire need of refinishing. There are 70 years worth of fingerprints all over the backs of the chairs and there are several nice gouges in the top of the buffet. The finish on the top of the backs of chairs is really coming off, too, and you can see different colored wood starting to show up on all four of the chairs. Of course, there are a lot of scratches on the table top from cats and kids and whatever over the years. And you can see all the cracks and discoloration of the old varnish--at least I think it is varnish. That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have used seventy years ago? Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any sort of poly. The chairs are getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works. One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now? She was born 20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set looked like in 2012. Thanks!


Really? I think I heard you say "My inlaws have a treasured family piece of furniture, in fact an entire set of furniture, I don't have enough experience to know how to refinish it and I would like to start doing this now."

Refinishing is the best way to reduce the value of any antique (can we call this an antique?). This is true even when done by the most accomplished professional.

Finishing furniture itself is (in my opinion) one of the most difficult parts of building furniture and refinishing is about 10 times harder.

Hmmm, does this seem like a good idea?
  #5  
Old December 17th 12, 07:57 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 3,082
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

wrote:
I was just given the go-head to refinish my wife's parent's old
dining room set. It was purchased in 1940 (my wife still has the
receipt!) and it is in dire need of refinishing. There are 70 years
worth of fingerprints all over the backs of the chairs and there are
several nice gouges in the top of the buffet. The finish on the top
of the backs of chairs is really coming off, too, and you can see
different colored wood starting to show up on all four of the chairs.
Of course, there are a lot of scratches on the table top from cats
and kids and whatever over the years. And you can see all the cracks
and discoloration of the old varnish--at least I think it is varnish.

That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to
finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have
used seventy years ago?


A. lacquer - lacquer thinner will dissolve it

B. shellac - alcohol will dissolve it

C. varnish - it is relatively impervious to alcohol or lacquer thinner
though the latter may effect it slowly.

There is such a thing as a varnish amalgamator to repair crazed varnish
finishes. I've never used it, no idea how effective it might be.

Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I
would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any
sort of poly.


Why not? It is the most scratch resistant thing.

The chairs are getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are
anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be
worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the
kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into
really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works.


Of course it works. So will cyanoacralate (super) glue...it wicks into
small areas well. Should you use either? No idea, can't see your chairs.

One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire
set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now? She was born
20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be
on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I
guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will
be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by
then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set
looked like in 2012.


The dark color of the set is most likely from stain, not age. For some
reason much of the mahogany furniture from that era and earlier was stained
a very dark cordovan color. Look at the underside structure for color
differences..

The table top and possibly other areas are most likely veneer rather than
solid wood. It was also common to use woods other than mahogany for trim
pieces. Veneer was thicker then but it is still veneer.

Others have suggested you would be better off having the work done by a
professional. +1 to that.


--

dadiOH
____________________________

Winters getting colder? Tired of the rat race?
Maybe just ready for a change? Check it out...
http://www.floridaloghouse.net


  #6  
Old December 17th 12, 11:23 PM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 288
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

On 12/17/2012 9:24 AM, wrote:




I question whether you really should refinish this set. I assume it is
fairly good shape and just needs some TLC.

Pick out some portion that is inconspicuous, perhaps the legs or
undercarriage of the table or the back legs of the buffet.

As others have noted:
lacquer will be softened by lacquer thinner.
shellac will be softened by denatured alcohol.
varnish would require paint remover.

I would suggest starting with paint thinner and very fine steel wool.
Rub it down really well and clean and wipe with clean rags and paint
thinner until a white rag comes away clean. The paint thinner won't
hurt any finish that is on the pieces and will remove wax and polish.
I'm wanting you to see what it looks like with just a really good
cleaning. If there are any scratches, etc use some Watco Danish oil of
an appropriate color. When fully dry (at least one day) give the area
you've been working on a goodly coat of paste wax using a pad of fine
steel wool as the applicator. Let dry for at least two days. Buff
with an old bath towel. I think you might be pleased and surprised to
just quit after using this process. Refinished stuff tends to look
refinished. Remember that on Antiques Road Show they always value the
original finishes.


Once you start the paint remover, scraping, sanding method there is no
turning back.

I've had fair results with Chair Doctor:
http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/chairdoctorglue.aspx
If the chairs are basically sound.


--


___________________________________

Keep the whole world singing . . .
Dan G
remove the seven
  #7  
Old December 18th 12, 12:32 AM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 571
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

On Mon, 17 Dec 2012 10:24:06 -0800 (PST), "SonomaProducts.com"
wrote:

On Monday, December 17, 2012 7:24:06 AM UTC-8, wrote:
I was just given the go-head to refinish my wife's parent's old dining room set. It was purchased in 1940 (my wife still has the receipt!) and it is in dire need of refinishing. There are 70 years worth of fingerprints all over the backs of the chairs and there are several nice gouges in the top of the buffet. The finish on the top of the backs of chairs is really coming off, too, and you can see different colored wood starting to show up on all four of the chairs. Of course, there are a lot of scratches on the table top from cats and kids and whatever over the years. And you can see all the cracks and discoloration of the old varnish--at least I think it is varnish. That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have used seventy years ago? Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any sort of poly. The chairs are

getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works. One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now? She was born 20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set looked like in 2012. Thanks!

Really? I think I heard you say "My inlaws have a treasured family piece of furniture, in fact an entire set of furniture, I don't have enough experience to know how to refinish it and I would like to start doing this now."

Refinishing is the best way to reduce the value of any antique (can we call this an antique?). This is true even when done by the most accomplished professional.

Finishing furniture itself is (in my opinion) one of the most difficult parts of building furniture and refinishing is about 10 times harder.

Hmmm, does this seem like a good idea?


I found myself going at least take a chair to several refinishers and
get some idea of what's involved. I admit to no real experience
refinishing anything that big or of any value. I've done a enough
projects in my time where I had to admit I would have been better off
hiring an expert and probably saved money.

Mike M
  #8  
Old December 18th 12, 01:59 AM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 64
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

On Monday, December 17, 2012 6:23:04 PM UTC-5, DanG wrote:

I question whether you really should refinish this set. I assume it is
fairly good shape and just needs some TLC.

Pick out some portion that is inconspicuous, perhaps the legs or
undercarriage of the table or the back legs of the buffet.

As others have noted:
lacquer will be softened by lacquer thinner.
shellac will be softened by denatured alcohol.
varnish would require paint remover.

I would suggest starting with paint thinner and very fine steel wool.

Rub it down really well and clean and wipe with clean rags and paint
thinner until a white rag comes away clean. The paint thinner won't
hurt any finish that is on the pieces and will remove wax and polish.

I'm wanting you to see what it looks like with just a really good
cleaning. If there are any scratches, etc use some Watco Danish oil of
an appropriate color. When fully dry (at least one day) give the area
you've been working on a goodly coat of paste wax using a pad of fine
steel wool as the applicator. Let dry for at least two days. Buff
with an old bath towel. I think you might be pleased and surprised to
just quit after using this process. Refinished stuff tends to look
refinished. Remember that on Antiques Road Show they always value the
original finishes.


Thanks, Dan.

So what you are saying is to use paint thinner and it will get all that built up wax and sticky fingerprints off and leave the finish alone. That's what I wanted to hear most of all. I was surprised when somebody said they used stain way back then to make things darker. That is probably the reason the tops of the chair backs are lighter than everything else: because people always put their hands right in the middle of that spot.

Is that where I could put a little danish oil? This isn't the best piece of furniture. Because of circumstances, we use this dining set at least a couple times a month. Sometimes for eating and sometimes for doing things on it. We keep it covered but the old scratches and such are there. There was a cat years and years ago that used to jump up on the table and got some claw marks in it. There are marks from writing on the table top--some are probably as old as the table. And, like I said, there are several deep gouges in the buffet top.

That said, I have a can of Johnston's Paste Wax, some Danish Oil, and a lot of 000 steel wool. Is that fine enough? Do they make a 0000 steel wool?

Thanks again for the answers!
  #10  
Old December 18th 12, 04:10 AM posted to rec.woodworking
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Posts: 910
Default Refinishing tips for a 70-year-old mahogany dining room set

If the table and chairs are treasured at all - by all means get the set
professionally stripped. There are companies that do that for a living
and identifying a surface is easy for them.

I'd get bids to do the whole thing. e.g. strip and they or another shop
professionally stain and finish.

Something that is remembered is worth the option. If it goes bad on you
because of fish-eye or dust or cold or to hot - so many things can cause
the family the want to just junk it at a later date.

Martin

On 12/17/2012 9:24 AM, wrote:
I was just given the go-head to refinish my wife's parent's old dining room set. It was purchased in 1940 (my wife still has the receipt!) and it is in dire need of refinishing. There are 70 years worth of fingerprints all over the backs of the chairs and there are several nice gouges in the top of the buffet. The finish on the top of the backs of chairs is really coming off, too, and you can see different colored wood starting to show up on all four of the chairs. Of course, there are a lot of scratches on the table top from cats and kids and whatever over the years. And you can see all the cracks and discoloration of the old varnish--at least I think it is varnish.

That is the first question: how do I figure out what they used to finish the dining set? Varnish, shellac, what else would they have used seventy years ago?

Next question is what should I use to finish it again? I assume I would want to use the same thing. I certainly don't want to use any sort of poly.

The chairs are getting a little wobbly but I don't think they are anywhere near the point of having to take them apart. Would it be worth it to look into that glue that is applied using a needle; the kind of needle like a doctor uses? It seems like these can get into really small places, obviously, but I don't know if the stuff works.

One last thing: how do I get my wife to understand that the entire set is going to be much, much lighter than it is now? She was born 20 years after this set was purchased, so she has only known it to be on the dark side. I am sure she is going to scream at first. I guess the only thing I can say is wait another 70 years and it will be just as dark as it is now, except she will be 120+ years old by then and the last thing she will be thinking about is what the set looked like in 2012.

Thanks!

 




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