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Old 12th May 2019, 12:35 pm   #1
David Simpson
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Default Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

Folks, I've an Ambassador 545 AC/DC to "do up" for someone. As you'll see from the pictures, the surface varnish is pretty awful, but the veneer is OK, although a wee bit stained in places. Top & sides are clear lacquered Mahogany, but after cleaning & blading the front, that seems to have had a brownish scrumbled paint jobby, with what is possibly American Walnut(?) as the veneer(wider wavy grain tinged with black at the grain edges).
So question is, were R.N.Fittons prone to painting over or scrumbling their veneer finishes ? And, is that front Walnut ?
A good pal(thanks Duncan) has kindly donated another 545 which has sustained terminal cabinet damage as a donor(see picture). Incidentally, this one has a KT71(50L6) running de-rated in place of the correct 35L6. And it works, as thankfully the chassis is OK.
Me - not really been involved much with veneered cabinet restoration, so am proceeding slowly & carefully.

Regards, David
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Old 12th May 2019, 1:57 pm   #2
Boater Sam
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Default Re: Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

It is probably just brown stain and lots of cellulose lacquer, it makes a sticky brown goo when stripping with paint stripper.
As its a late set, likely it won't be shellac, french polish.
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Old 12th May 2019, 4:33 pm   #3
Mike. Watterson
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Default Re: Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

From the 1930s the sets were sprayed. Mass production.
Only very early deluxe cabinets of factory made sets had French Polish which is basically shellac (from a beetle) dissolved in meths and is very labour intensive and needs skill.

Modern Acrylic spray clear paint, like transparent final layers for a metallic painted car is the most similar to the mass produced lacquer coatings. They often used a translucent or opaque base coat spray, called toner, on the raw veneer to change the colour. This can dissolve in some paint strippers.

You can still buy real shellac, for pre-1920s furniture restoration.
"From the time it replaced oil and wax finishes in the 19th century, shellac was one of the dominant wood finishes in the western world until it was largely replaced by nitrocellulose lacquer in the 1920s and 1930s."
I've never understood people "French polishing" radio cabinets, though it's a hobby and why not if you like it. Car Acrylic transparent lacquer spray is closer to authentic and a lot less work.
Polyurethane or some hobby lacquers are trickier, more expensive and less authentic.

Last edited by Mike. Watterson; 12th May 2019 at 4:39 pm.
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Old 12th May 2019, 5:51 pm   #4
David Simpson
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Default Re: Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

Yep, Sam & Mike, I knew it wasn't french polished, just veneered plywood. Other folk on the Forum have said in the past that French Polishing is just for antique furniture, & those expensive 1920's Chippendale furniture quality wirelesses & radiograms. I've found clear car acrylic spray lacquer to be just the ticket in the past. Several coats, not close up overspraying, is the best method, I've found.
It was this scrumble-like dark(painted ?) finish on the front which I'm hoping some Ambassador buff can enlighten me about. Its on both 545's I now have.
Talking of the damaged donor - - Jesus ! - - - am I glad I've stripped it completely down today, before going any further with the repairable one. I've even managed to remove a fair bit of re-usable mahogany veneer off the sides & top. BEWARE - Folk - - those top rounded corners are wafer thin ! NOT steam bent 90 deg. 11/32" six-ply. Just the veneer layer & a similar 0.5mm(or less) thick layer of whitewood ! Will have to be exceptionally careful blading & sanding those corners !

Regards, David
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Old 12th May 2019, 5:58 pm   #5
Boater Sam
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Default Re: Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

I don't sand at all.
Just strip and scrape and wash off using a scotch pad - carefully.
Between coats if lacquering use flour paper, or 1200 wet and dry.
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Old 12th May 2019, 7:06 pm   #6
David Simpson
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Default Re: Any AMBASSADOR Experts ?

Sounds a good idea, Sam.
Now that the old phooked cabinet has been stripped of its mahogany veneer, I'm wondering what conditions encouraged de-lamination in the first place ? Cos it came away with very little effort. But, there is no evidence of excessive dampness or moisture ingress. Perhaps the original animal glue was inadequately applied in the first place back in 1947. I'm really surprised that Fitton's cabinet makers didn't re-enforce the corners with some quadrant.
The donor also had a decent un-scratched frequency dial glass, thankfully.

Regards, David
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