View Poll Results: What finish for that old-time 50's look?
Spar Varnish? 9 32.14%
Shellac? 6 21.43%
Tung Oil? 5 17.86%
Polyurethane? 4 14.29%
Other - please explain 4 14.29%
Voters: 28. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-10-2009, 05:30 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 63air View Post
I have been a professional finisher for many years and love hearing the opinions on the different finish products out there. My personal choice for cabinetry in a trailer would be either lacquer or a quality oil based varnish. I often use cut orange shellac as a first coat as it will give a nice amber tone and a depth to the finish. Polyurethanes are not something I don't use as they tend to discolor over time and are hard to repair. Sheen is just a matter of preference as most products are avilable in whatever you like.

For my own trailer I used a varnish finish since I finished most of the cabinets in place and did not want to risk damage to the fridge or catalytic heater from lacquer overspray. This meant a lot more work and drying time . I have some pictures posted ander "refinished at last".

Reguardless of the finish you choose, protect it. A good coat of paste wax (such as Johnsons) works wonders.
What kind of varnish did they use in trailers to give the birch that warm campfire glow? Do you know what I mean? When all trailers had birch interiors before the white paneling came in?
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Old 02-10-2009, 06:10 PM   #30
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THAT's the $64,000 question ~

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ganaraska View Post
What kind of varnish did they use in trailers to give the birch that warm campfire glow? Do you know what I mean? When all trailers had birch interiors before the white paneling came in?
That's the look I'm going for. I know it is a brittle hard finish - at areas where it's chipping off, it's kind of thick, yellow, brittle and flakey if that gives any clue. If's not really checkered, but where's its scratched, it kinda lifts. I might be able to get a picture of a damaged portion of a panel if it would help ID it.

I don't want to replicate the brittle & flakey characteristics though ~

Shari
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:59 AM   #31
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I believe that is the old fashioned varnish or spar varnish. It is not brittle or yellow when new. It only gets that way after 40 or 50 years.

On boats the rule is to give it a fresh coat of varnish every year. Some old yachts have had the wood revarnished this way for 100 years and are still good. Of course this is on wood that is used outdoors and exposed to salt air, for the interior of a trailer this revarnishing is not necessary, well maybe every 30 years.

Would like to hear from some real experts on this.
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Old 02-15-2009, 10:16 AM   #32
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Age does it

The "mellow" colors of some wood/finishes are caused by aging ,they did not look that way when they were new. An expert finisher can replicate the aged look through a variety of techniques.

A proper finish on interior wood will last more than your lifetime you will never have to redo it. Just remember to protect it, keep it clean, polish/ wax it ( never ever use an aerosol polish product).
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Old 02-15-2009, 10:24 AM   #33
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chances are very good that the interior finishes were not spar varnish,even back then..most likely a oil based varnish..
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Old 02-15-2009, 11:07 AM   #34
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To be honest I am very partial to Lacquer.
If you are looking for a mellow golden aging of a finish, you should look to something like a cellulose lacquer.
If you would like to see what it looks like after aging. Take a look at old guitar tops. The better guitars were finished with cellulose lacquer and they age with a golden patina, reminiscent of old birch panel.

Dependant on which type you buy it can be sprayed or brushed, just make sure of you have good ventilation.

My Grand Mother lived in a trailer from 1948 to 1989. She said that you should clean and wax every year and her trailer was beautiful birch with a depth in the finish that started 6" off the wood. Murphy's Oil soap and paste wax once a year for 40 years. The original finish was Lacquer.
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:56 AM   #35
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Shari,

The original finish from the factory was lacquer up til 1971. The factory also recommends using Danish oil for touch up work.

I am planning on using Waterlox on my cabinetry. It is easy to apply, great depth, tough as nails, and easy to fix if it gets damaged.

Woody
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:59 AM   #36
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The finish I stripped in my 63 was a lacquer finish ,which is what I prefer to use, due to ease of application . My own opinion is that spar varnish is great for boats but not really what you need for interior work. Its big plus is UV resistance.
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Old 02-21-2009, 12:22 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woody.303 View Post
Shari,

The original finish from the factory was lacquer up til 1971. The factory also recommends using Danish oil for touch up work.

I am planning on using Waterlox on my cabinetry. It is easy to apply, great depth, tough as nails, and easy to fix if it gets damaged.

Woody
Woody, that looks like interesting stuff. How does the dry time on it compare to spar varnish?

cheers,
steve
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Old 02-21-2009, 04:48 PM   #38
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Steve,

That's not an easy question to answer without a long drawn out explanation. Others here on the forums might like the conclusions/observations that I've made. Please forgive me if this is tedious as I just happen to be the type of person that over-researches a topc. Here goes:

Similar to spar varnish, the major disadvantage of Waterlox is the dry time, it is veeeeeeeerrrrry slow. It soaks deeply into the wood, and usually requires at least three coats. Each layer will have to set up for a minimum of 8 hours between re-coats.

It will then off-gas, and harden, for up to two weeks, depending on temp and humidity. If you are super sensitive to smelly things, wait a month.

Waterlox was originally formulated for gym floors back in the 1930's, and it is still very popular today for woodworking enthusiasists. (Polyurethane is now considered the premier choice for hardwood floors.) Because Waterlox tends to soak into the wood, there is little chance of flaking or cracking. Waterlox gives that deep shine that "pops" the grain similar to spar varnish and shellacs. It also doesn't yellow nearly as fast as most other types of finish.

The other advantage is the cold weather performance of Waterlox. Because it is tung oil molecularly bonded to a phenolic resin, it tends to maintain flexibility in temperature extremes. It is also UV resistant, but not to the degree of spar varnish. (For those, like me, that absolutely have to know, phenolic resins are used to make pool balls, epoxies, and many other familiar products. The tung oil keeps it flexible, and maintains the UV resistance.)

Polyurethanes, on the other hand, sometimes tend to yellow and crack when subjected to cold temperatures. This may be due to the fact that the poly sits on top of the wood instead of getting soaked into the grain. I've also heard of humidity extremes causing it to turn milky, though I've never seen it myself. A spar varnish polyurethane, a.k.a. spar urethane, (such as the Minwax product easily obtainable at Home Depot) is an attempt to rectify this characteristic and add UV resistance. I will give credit where credit is due, and say that polyurethanes are much better than they were even ten years ago. I like poly for indoor projects, and use it quite a bit for tables, turned bowls, hardwood floors and other misc. projects. Because of its kid tested durability, it is great for kitchen tables. However, it is difficult to touch up and has a "plastic" look to it.

True spar varnish (often confused with the modern spar urethane) is made from boiled linseed oil, and tends to yellow then darken with time. However, the beautiful deep shine, easy touchup characteristics, flexibility on moving parts, and UV resistance have made it a favorite for boat owners. Most antique furniture was finished with boiled linseed oil, which also explains why most pieces are now almost black in color.

As Janet's husband mentioned, lacquer is also a good, durable, non-yellowing choice. I don't have much experience using it other than painting cars though. I can safely say that a large percentage of cabinet manufacturers use lacquer, but mostly because of the super fast dry times. This is changing with EPA regulations, and faster drying products available now. It is most advantageous to get the product made and shipped out the door ASAP when furniture is mass-produced. This is probably also why the Airstream factory used it. I have recently developed skin allergies, and can't be exposed to it anymore. For those that are planning on using lacquer, please use a respirator and gloves.

I've never used shellac, but I do know that shellac is "hard as a rock", and that makes me wonder about flexibility issues when used in a moving, flexing, swaying trailer. If others have used it with success, then I'm just paranoid.

I'm not an expert in wood finishes, and these are just my observations. I've chosen Waterlox for various reasons, and I'm willing to wait for the drying time, but it might not work for everyone. I hope this helps.

Woody
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Old 02-21-2009, 05:08 PM   #39
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Thanks, Woody, not tedious at all. Looks like Waterlox is available at our little hometown hardware store, so I'll check it out further. Appreciate the info.

cheers,
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:21 PM   #40
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Steve,

After using some of the product, put clean pebbles or bearings in the bottle to bring it level of the liquid back up to the top. Any oxygen inside the bottle will harden the product in just a few months.

Good luck,

Woody
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Old 02-21-2009, 11:52 PM   #41
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Good info Woody.

Here are a couple of links with some good info on finishes.

Nordy Finishing Q&A

Lacquer vs. polyurethane - Sawmill Creek
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Old 02-22-2009, 01:35 AM   #42
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I work for a cabinet shop in Hayward,ca.
25 years ago when I started in woodworking lacquer was the standard for most shops. It is easy to apply and to repair. Its main drawback is that it isn't very durable, especially where water is involved. I would not use it in a travel trailer. excessive heat will cause it to become brittle and crack. Its best used on furniture that will be in a controlled environment, and won't be put to heavy use.
Most cabinet shops are using conversion varnish now which is a two part finish, meaning it has a base and a catalyst you have to mix in the correct amounts for the finish to become active. It is very durable. it is as easy to apply as lacquer. The surface is durable enough to be used on desktops and dining tables. We started using it about five years ago, after many years of using and repairing nitro-cellulose lacquer on our cabinets. Since that time we have almost no problem with callbacks for finishing issues. It has made a huge difference in the quality of our products.
Some of the finishes being discussed here are not really suitable for the extremes of temperature and humidity that our trailers will be put through in the course of regular use. The type of finishes that really soak into the wood are only durable if they are allowed to build up to a film on the surface. This takes many applications with danish oil or tung oil, and it's not really practical for the use because of that. It would take probably fifteen or twenty applications to build a film. True, it would have excellent adhesion, but at the cost of possibly weeks spent applying finish and waiting for it to dry. Yes, Its possible, no, Its not very practical.
For those who have no finishing experience to speak of I always recommend trying a floor finish first. Varathane has a really good one, and there are also some good water based floor finishes out there which cure really quickly. I think waterlox makes one like that. These are finishes you can brush on or rag on. All you have to watch out for is that you don't apply so much finish that it runs. They are usually thin enough to have good penetration, and because they are somewhat thin you will need at least two coats, maybe three to get complete coverage. The nice thing here is you can re-coat two or three times in one day with the fast drying ones.
I also recommend using satin, rather than gloss or semi-gloss finish. It looks more like fine furniture, rather than plastic. It shows less defects due to poor application and damage also.
You can see some of the conversion varnish used on cabinets at the link below

Segale Bros.

Now, who wants this soapbox next?
Rich
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