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Old 03-28-2004, 04:20 PM   #1
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Question Refinishing 1950's birch cabinets

Warm spring day here in New England - perfect day to work on the AS. Today we started trying out different refinishing techniques, but didn't come up with anything that worked well. We can't find any threads on the subject and would really appreciate if somone could direct us to a thread or offer some advice.

The problem: the condition of the cabinets varies considerably, and we want a finishing technique that will look consistent and original. In some places where panels have been protected, it looks like the '50's clear natural lacquer finish has remained clear and blonde. Most other places the finish has aged and taken on a yellow or orange patina. Yet other places the finish has worn off, and still other places it has been darkened or damaged.

We've decided to go for the aged patina look instead of original blonde, thinking it will be less work. Many of the panels are aged but in good condition and have cleaned up nicely. Today we tried various techniques on damaged panels. We tried light sanding and a coat of clear polyurethane on a door that had lost some finish. It wasn't bad, but was darker than the original and also revealed black spots in the wood and grain (how to get rid of those spots?). Tried Hopes refinishing to remove the finish entirely on one panel; again used poly and it was darker still and a different color. Fornby's had similar results.

Refinishing isn't our thing I guess. Why is it so hard to get a nice, light, even finish? We also need to replace two small panels with new wood finished to match the original cabinets. Can't imagine how that will turn out. Where are the smilies for "whining"?

Any help out there?

Doug
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Old 03-29-2004, 11:16 AM   #2
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We are still trying to figure out ours as well.

I have a few pannels that have to be replaced. No way around it. I have a few that have some damage but not horrible. I would have been awsome if I just needed to strip and varnish but I way past that. Looks like we may replace wht has to be replaced and then put a veneer on the rest to match it all up. Only thing I can do to get it all to match and look right. Unfortunaly that means I'll loose the Patina.
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Old 03-29-2004, 11:24 AM   #3
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Refinishing 1950's birch cabinets

Greetings Doug!

Matching a blonded finish from the 1950s is quite a challenge. My experience has been with restoring furniture rather than with my Airstream. There are two approaches that I have used.

When starting with bare new or stripped original wood, it is generally easiest to find a paint store with access to a line of high-quality stains and purchase two or three small cans of their blonding stains - - I started with light coats of the lightest stain first and if the color didn't build up quickly enough went with the progressively darker blonding stains until the desired color was achieved.

Repairs were somewhat more involved as the blonding stain usually produced too much contrast with the surrounding original finish. With my furniture restorations, I used varnish with "tinting-pigment" (essentially artist colors) to tint thinned varnish then applied several coats of the varnish mixture until the repair area blended in with the surrounding finish - - again, it generally took several tries to get a close match of the original blonded finishes. I suspect that matching the blonding in an Airstream will be somewhat more challenging than the furniture that I worked with as the furniture hadn't been exposed to much sunlight.

Good luck with your finish repairs/restoration!

Kevin
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Old 03-29-2004, 11:45 AM   #4
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Doug,
To get a truly consistent look you may want to consider stripping the existing finish from ALL of your cabinets and sand lightly starting with 120 grit sandpaper and then 220, wipe them down with a tack cloth and then stain. It's not impossiable but difficult to match an old finish so that you can't tell the difference. Be very careful in both stripping and sanding, use either a random orbit sander or if by hand wrap the paper around a wood block so that you don't leave sanding depressions. Good luck, it's always a challange.

Jack
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Old 03-29-2004, 05:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. Glad to know we're not alone! Don't really want to refinish everything if we can help it, especially since our refinishing efforts made the finish darkest of all (see following photos). But then ours is an amateur effort. Never heard of blonding stain, so will try some of that as well.
Posting some pics of efforts so far.

Pic 1 of 3 is the back side of one cabinet door, untouched, not really blonde but also not too badly aged.

Pic 2 of 3 is one panel lightly sanded with a clear stain

***(How to get rid of those black marks in the grain, etc?)***

Pic 3 of 3 is a panel with finish removed and clear poly applied. Almost looks like 60's mahogany!
Doug
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Old 03-29-2004, 06:37 PM   #6
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Photo clarification

The new software is great for uploading photos, but it's a bit different and I've identified the photos incorrectly.

cabinet0004 is the untouched panel
cabinet0003 is lightly sanded and given clear stain
cabinet0002 is stripped with Hope's and finished with clear poly

Doug
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Old 03-29-2004, 07:11 PM   #7
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I use a "Forby's" type method when working with old finishes. I use wood stripper thinned with acetone on steel wool to work off the old finish. It does not actually strip everything bare, but leaves much of the patina. I then apply the new finish of choice.

This will not, of course, give you an original look, but more the look of the original after aging gracefully.

As always, ventilate, use protective gloves, masks, etc.

Mark
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Old 03-31-2004, 06:55 PM   #8
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Blonding stain?

Thanks all for the replies.

Kevin, what is blonding stain? I've tried a couple of places to find it and folks hadn't heard of it. Is there a particular brand? Do you know who sells it?
Doug
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Old 03-31-2004, 08:13 PM   #9
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Sanding consistency

..just a bit of advice, but from the photos you may not need it:

Be sure when sanding to do it consistently across the surface. I have made the mistake of hitting spots with a different grit of paper only to find that the stain took differently in that spot.

Also on new wood, be careful with wood filler. Often I have filled nail holes before staining, only to find that the filler filled up the pores and left a light spot in the stain (even after wiping away the excess and sanding when dry).

Matching the stain is really just trial and error. I have lots of little cans of stain in my garage from doing just that..

Good luck with your project.

John.
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:22 AM   #10
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Refinishing 1950's birch cabinets

Greetings Doug!

Quote:
Kevin, what is blonding stain? I've tried a couple of places to find it and folks hadn't heard of it. Is there a particular brand?
It seems that I have shopped in the same small-town paint store for so many years that I hadn't realized that "blonding-stain" is an old name for what is now often called "pickling" or "white-washed" finishes. (I think that my local paint store still carries a "blonding kit" for furniture restorers, but couldn't find any mention of the kit in a Dogpile Search.) I am not at my homebase and won't be for several weeks so don't have immediate access to the actual stains that I have used, but did find the following that are quite similar:

Prelude Oil Base Stain - - White Mist

Seal-A-Cell Stain - - White

EF Wood Stains - - Country Pine Whitewash Min-Wax Stain - - White Oak or White Wash Min-Wax Stains - - Summer Straw Min-Wax Stain - - Pickled Oak 260

Kevin
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Old 04-01-2004, 05:14 PM   #11
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Thanks,Kevin. I'll check out these products and test them.
Doug
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Old 04-03-2004, 10:48 PM   #12
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refinishing

A A couple of ideas. To get new wood to match old cabinets You can try a cabinet refinishers trick. Lightly rough up the new wood surface with 150 grit paper. Take some of the stripping sludge from the other pieces you have stripped and rub it into the new wood while it is still wet. try it on a scrap piece to see how it does and to see how long you need to leave it on before wiping it off.This helps to get the finish to a closer match.
Another nice toy to use is to get a small [5'] random orbit sander with a dust collector bag on it.You can then attach a shop vac to the port that the collection bag attaches to.With it set up this way you can sand your cabinet frames in the trailor with a minimum of dust.And youn can sand the doors outside. If you use progressivly finer grades of paper ie' 80-120-150 -etc. you can ussually stop at 200 and have a glass smooth finish. The random orbit sanders are in the 50-100 dollar range and they are worth their weight in gold.
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Old 04-04-2004, 11:50 AM   #13
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***(How to get rid of those black marks in the grain, etc?)***
I don't know how brave you are. We had black marks like that on the woodwork in our last house. It was caused by ice forming on the inside of the windows in the winter, then melting and water standing on the wood. This had been going on for decades.

I decided it looked so bad that nothing I could do would make it look worse, with the possible exception of burning it. So I sanded the remaining finish off, and then took a sponge with a 50/50 solution of Clorox bleach and water and soaked the wood.

I allowed the solution to dry and then soaked again as needed. When I was done, the black marks were GONE! I sanded, stained, and sealed the window frames. They looked as good as new.
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Old 04-04-2004, 12:16 PM   #14
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I think I'll try all of these good ideas on a spare panel and let you know the results!
EdieG, is the black stuff mold/mildew that the bleach kills or a stain that the bleach lightens? I wonder if something like TSP would also work?
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