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Old 24th Apr 2013, 2:18 pm   #1
Stuart R
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Default Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Hello!

Work is continuing with the Murphy A242 (1955) rescued from a workshop clear-out. Sorry this rambles a bit, there is a question or two at the end....

The varnished finish was so rough, I thought I'd strip it and start again. I've never attempted cabinet work, but am hoping I can't make it any worse(!) Got myself some store's-own-brand paint stripper and it did wonders on the first pass. Working one side at a time, got great chunks of gloop off with a wooden spatula.

Some parts didn't clear straight away, so I tried a second application of stripper in localised places. That was the first mistake, as the stripper seems to bleach the wood a shade lighter on each go, so this left the clean wood rather blotchy. Although no varnish remained, treating the top with stripper again, and using wire wool to clean off, restored a uniform colour.

Everytime I work on one surface, the residue left from rinsing/wiping down always gets onto an adjacent surface and leaves a darker/lighter stripe, this is still visible when the cabinet dries.

Did one final coat of stripper over the whole cabinet that has made things better but can still see the dark stripe on the RHS at the front.

I plan to use wood dye and then spray laquer to finish the cabinet off. So the question is will the wood dye help mask this stripe or make it look worse? I suspect the latter.

Will repeated applications of stripper (Benzyl alcohol) damage the veneer?

Any thoughts welcome. Thanks & Regards,

Stuart
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Old 24th Apr 2013, 4:40 pm   #2
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Hi Stuart,

I've always used multiple applications of paint stripper and never had problems. Are you using white spirit or water to "rinse" the cabinet? I would advise using white spirit, but don't over soak it!

White spirit gives a brief preview of how the veneer will look when finished. Try wiping over the cabinet with some and see if the uneven shades improve.

David
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Old 25th Apr 2013, 10:04 am   #3
Stuart R
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Hello David,

Thanks for your thoughts.

My method changed a bit everytime I had another go. By the time I did this last pass there was no varnish left, just the different staining it had left behind.

On the final go, I let the stripper do its stuff for 40 mins then added another coat (as per instructions) and waited for it to soak in.

Worked it a bit with wire wool then wiped the residue off with a cloth. Wiped over with another cloth dampened with white spirit a few times then a final wipe with water via a wet cloth.

I had read here that White Spirit gives a good "preview" and enjoyed the colour whilst it lasted. Forgot to look in detail at the staining beneath!

It's a nice morning in the garden so will have one more go.

Thanks & Regards

Stuart.

(Have enjoyed another look at your Nixie Clock -Great Stuff!)
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Old 25th Apr 2013, 11:26 am   #4
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

I had a Bush PB case (53 I think) that had staining that showed after I removed the varnish. I dampened the veneer and scraped it (Stanley blade) while wet, then when completely dry, a light sanding.
This worked but is obviously dangerous as the wood is more prone to damage when damp. Dampness also stands the grain up, so might let out dirt or chemical stains.

BUT, the staining was not caused by the varnish removal, as I did that with the scraper.

Hope you enjoy your 10 minutes in the sun!

SEAN
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Old 25th Apr 2013, 9:50 pm   #5
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Hello Sean,

Have had a whole day of sunshine up here. Lovely! Got a bit distracted in the end and got on with garden chores. But first...

Had another go on the cabinet.

Brush on stripper
Wait 30 mins (thought less time as there is no varnish to strip)
Rub in/off with cloth -nice even shade
Rub over with white spirit -leave to dry
Rub over with water dampened cloth

I've put more streaks back in it!!

Hard to tell at what stage they appeared as it's always looking better & darker when the wood is damp. Having left it for a day to dry, I can see the tell-tale wipe marks left by my cloth.

Quite nervous about sanding and there are dark stains in the wood that are not my doing. Maybe they'll have to stay as I'm sure I'll go through the veneer if let loose with a sanding block!

I'll have another go next week, when I've got more time.

Thanks again for the tips!

Stuart.
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Old 26th Apr 2013, 8:38 am   #6
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Try a quick dampen and scrape........... Unless you go mad and damage the veneer you have nothing to loose! Careful at the edges

SEAN
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Old 20th Mar 2018, 12:44 pm   #7
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Thread reopened at member's request.
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Old 21st Mar 2018, 12:28 pm   #8
Stuart R
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Apologies for the long gap. I'm hoping not to take attention away from Dick's concurrent thread on the same topic. Something here may be useful....

After tripping over this cabinet for the last 5 years, I took on board some very helpful advice offered by David (G4EBT) on cabinet re-finishing. In it he discussed the various methods involving oil based stains vs water based and also the excellent, yet time consuming French polishing route.

David said he'd used water based stain and clear aerosol lacquer and so based on his experience, I thought I'd try the same. I have a few radios with scratched and damage cabinets, so pushed the boat out and bought a variety of 250ml bottles of "Liberon palette" wood dye, some sponge applicators and cloths.

For the Murphy A242, I chose Yew for the main cabinet and Golden Pine for the recessed woodwork around the front panel. The dark streaks that I mentioned back in 2013 didn't look so pronounced now, there are still darker patches in the wood which may have been there originally.

The instructions state you should apply the stain quickly - along the grain - and wipe off any excess before it dries with a clean, dry cotton cloth. This is the really tricky part;

The first time I tried this, I was a bit too vigorous with the cloth and ended up wiping most of the dye off again.

The second time, I left the dye a bit too long. It looked a good coating when wet, but a little opaque in some patches where laid on a bit thick. Leave it too long and these opaque patches dry leaving darker 'toffee apple' streaks in the finish.

I noticed at this point that my cheap masking tape, when removed. lifted the colour off of the lighter section I'd done previously. I decided that the dye must still be sitting on the surface of the wood, so used a fine bit of sandpaper to remove the worst of the toffee apple streaks.

Third attempt was on the darker front surround. The grain runs along the shorter dimension only about 25 mm wide, so that's lots of small sponge strokes, where you can soon see a build-up of dye collecting at the edges. I used a cloth again to even-up the coating, gently rubbing until no more wet patches can be seen. I was pleased with the look at first, but still, once dry, you could still make out 5mm darker portion where the dye had concentrated at each end.

Fourth attempt and back to the top of the cabinet. I tried one more coat with a different method. working in a small corner at a time, I rubbed the dye on with a cloth. It gave a nice, even result on the first patch, but became difficult after working on the adjacent patch and the two edges wouldn't blend very well. Being nervous about another sanding session, I gave the top of the cabinet a wipe over with a water-dampened cloth. This did seem to even things out.

Fifth attempt this morning, I've just tried the side. I made three nice passes with the 1 inch sponge. Wiped the excess off with a cloth and carried on to cover the rest of that side. By the time I get to the other end, I can already see some dark patches that I feel are going to spoil the appearance. Some I can even out with the cloth and others are too dry. I rubbed a little harder and they lighten. That's no good, so I add a dab more stain. For some reason that now leaves a lighter patch which can't be evened out. To save another sanding session, I've given that side a wipe over with a damp cloth and will have another go later.....

I'm going to keep plodding on with this, the top of the cabinet still looks a lot nicer than it did 5 years ago, I think there is hope.

I suppose this is just a cautionary tale. I know there are plenty of you out there who have done this before and know all the pitfalls and have offered excellent advice. I hadn't appreciated how difficult this part of restoration can be.

A top tip that I will pass on is to do this in an even light, the recent overcast days give a good light on my kitchen table. Once the sun comes through the window in the afternoon, it's very hard to pick out the errors in my dye application with all other shadows flickering through the window,

SR
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Old 21st Mar 2018, 12:30 pm   #9
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

I'm no woodworker (as you can guess) so the large chunks of missing veneer have been filled with a pine coloured filler. These looked quite a good match before dying the cabinet, but have now taken on a very orange appearance. I have scratched some 'grain' into the filled section with a scribe but still need to work out how to colour them before I add some lacquer.

Hopefully more updates sooner this time!

SR
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 1:18 pm   #10
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Haven't looked at this for a while but just a quick update to keep the thread open.

I never realised how difficult this wood dye is to use. I think I've used half the bottle and still haven't worked out a decent method.

Moved onto a DAC90A for a break.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 1:48 pm   #11
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

I'm no expert, but I think you might still have some of the original finish or wax on the cabinet, preventing proper absorption. The dye is usually absorbed quite readily into the wood, and the excess to be wiped off is just that - wet dye on the surface where the timber is saturated.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 2:09 pm   #12
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Wood filler is a poor base for wood dye.

Lawrence.
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Old 31st Oct 2018, 11:19 am   #13
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Five years since starting this, I think there is some progress. I take on board the comments about wood filler and the final challenge will be matching those-in.

Firstly, the water-based wood stain seems quite forgiving, I've managed to get rid of dried streaks with a light rinse with water and a gentle going over with fine (wet) wet and dry paper. Not sure if I am diluting the stain or sanding the top of the veneer away, but the colour of the waste water suggests the stain is coming out.

I found an on-line video from a wood coatings company based in the USA.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QnrhELTJkc
In it, they advised how you should get the wood thoroughly wet with the stain, so wet that you can write into the wet stain with a finger-tip. Then work it around with a sponge applicator until the whole area is covered. Then you can wipe the excess wet streaks off with a paper towel before they dry. Things dry-out too quickly if you don't apply enough stain to begin with.

It's suggested that you don't work on too large an area, so I carefully masked off the top section and by following their instructions achieved a good result with the first coat. The trick for me seemed to be getting the wood very wet and then getting an even coat by spreading around with the sponge applicator. After each wipe of the sponge across the cabinet, I removed the excess off the sponge before giving the cabinet another wipe. There comes a point when, if not careful, you start to dry the stain and lighter areas patches appear. It's definitely a skill in deciding when to stop the sponge work! Once I was happy with the even colouring I wiped a paper towel very lightly over the wood, just tickling the surface.

After drying, I tried a second coat which wasn't so good. I decided not to do the paper towel wipe. When dry, this left the very fine streaks from the sponge applicator which spoilt the appearance of the grain.

A few pictures, sorry for variable lighting......
  • As left from last Spring's efforts
  • Removing streaks with some wetted fine wet and dry paper
  • First coat applied
  • Second coat applied
  • Fine streaks left behind

More on this in the next post.....

SR
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 1:09 pm   #14
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

After another long break, I'm pleased to report some progress. I wanted the set ready for Christmas and was fed up with the space taken up by separate cabinet and chassis.

I failed to get it ready for Christmas, but managed to spend a bit more time on this during some of the milder days in November & December.

I was still struggling to get a uniform finish, so many efforts were removed the following day with a wipe-over with a damp cloth.

I was aware that the join between the veneers on the side of the cabinet was feeling a bit more pronounced when I ran my hand over it, so I don't think these damp wipe-overs could be continued forever, In addition, the patches of wood filler I'd used to fill the various bits of missing veneer were also feeling more rough, I had sanded them super-smooth when first applied.

I had finally got an acceptable finish when accidentally dripped some water on the cabinet, this removed the colour instantly. I managed to make a fairly good repair by smearing around the tiniest amount of partially dry stain with a cotton bud.

As mentioned by others before, Wood Filler is not a great base for wood stain. Once happy with the appearance of the overall cabinet, I'd apply a bit of extra stain by brush to the filled section, but mostly this application would lift the previous coat. I had some furniture repair crayons, but didn't want to add any wax to the surface, so tried colouring pencils and felt tip pen with no luck. I tried laying the stain on a bit thicker to get a better colour match, using the half-dried stain congealed around the top of the tin. It still didn't look quite right, so I also added a bit more stain in-between coats of the spray lacquer, I think its now acceptable, considering the bodgery beneath.

Sadly more bodgery was needed when the cabinet slipped on the Workmate, resulting in a chunk of veneer coming away from the back corner of the cabinet. I'd run out of wood filler, so after masking up the corner, dribbled-in some PVA glue mixed with wood stain. It looked good to start with but the downfall with this plan is that the glue shrinks when dry, so has left a slightly concave repair. I had forgotten all about this until reviewing my photographs!

I used 2 400ml spray cans of Jenkins 'Clear Gloss' PC2 90% Lacquer to get around 8 coats. Spraying out doors was required and any breeze affected the coverage. I encountered two problems with this method; If I slowed down and laid things on a bit thick, easily done in the corners, the dried finish looked a bit milky and required a lot of buffing to restore the clear look. Secondly the spray nozzles do seem to block fairly quickly, this would result in a bubbly sound from the spray and some very concentrated shiny streaks across the cabinet.

After a couple of coats, I would gently use a bit of (wet) wet and dry paper, followed by a buff with a soft cloth. I could get quite a shine but the surface was and is still lacking that hard, smooth finish.
  • Accidental water damage
  • Removing the colour when trying a second coat of stain on wood filler
  • Milky finish from too much lacquer
  • Very Glossy streaks from partially blocked nozzle
  • Half way through Lacquer - a shiny finish that has now gone!
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 1:31 pm   #15
Stuart R
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

  • The chipped veneer filled with PVA and stain - looked promising.
  • Completed repair - not ideal, but easily overlooked.
  • Cabinet top 5 years ago.
  • Cabinet top today.
  • Finish is still easily damaged.
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 1:55 pm   #16
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

So, nearly 6 years to get this far!

The set's back together and I think it is a great improvement. However, I'm still missing that glossy, brittle coating that is on most of my other Woodies.

Any suggestions where to go from here? Do I just need many more cans of Lacquer or something else?

Thanks for sticking with this!

SR
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 5:36 pm   #17
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

To get the really hard gloss you are looking for , you will need a two pack isocyanate lacquer - not a DIY job.

Cellulose lacquer can give a good finish, but nowhere near the gloss of the original finish.
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Old 4th Feb 2019, 9:48 pm   #18
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

You can French polish on top of what you've put on. Shellac is noted for sticking to anything. You can get it as glossy as you wish but you'll have to go through the grits and polishing cream. Alternately finish from the rag, it's glossy enough.
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Old 5th Feb 2019, 9:25 am   #19
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Williams View Post
To get the really hard gloss you are looking for , you will need a two pack isocyanate lacquer - not a DIY job.

Cellulose lacquer can give a good finish, but nowhere near the gloss of the original finish.
The original finish most probably was cellulose.

A high gloss finish can be obtained on most lacquers by the time honoured method of cutting back and buffing. Lots of elbow grease basically.
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Old 6th Feb 2019, 10:43 am   #20
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Default Re: Wooden cabinet re-finishing

Thanks for your suggestions,

I did have a fairly glossy finish a few coats ago (1 coin picture) and that was after some intense buffing to remove the milky finish, but it still lacked that final 'crispy' coating. Two-pack isn't an option, so I'll try to recreate the look another way.

Maybe a few more coats of Lacquer are required; 400ml of spray only seems reliable for 4 coats before the nozzle starts to splutter. I'll have to get some more.

There are some good guides on French Polishing on this forum, maybe I'll have to re-read. I was happy just to tidy the set up, but having treated it to a new Magic Eye and Murphy enamelled badge, I need to try a bit harder to complete the look.

Regards,

SR
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