Originally Posted by InsideOut
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 would bet that your cabinets were refinished or re-coated with varnish or shellac at some time. the original finish in the fifties would have been a thin coat applied with a sprayer. Probably lacquer. The thick, yellow, brittle and flakey clue says a lot. The flaking is likely a varnish or shellac that was put on later with a brush. This was the most common way of repairing a finish on old cabinets. It would make them look great, but they would yellow a lot over time. Then the varnish would seperate from the lacquer and wood with time, and you would be left with thick yellow flakes falling from your woodwork.
To duplicate this requires some yellow-orange color be added to the finish. It can be done with a coat or two of shellac, to get the color right, then a coat or two of semigloss or gloss finish. sand or scotchbrite between coats, especially when changing from shellac to the next finish.
For durability I would look at the fast drying floor finishes in water based products, as stated before.
Best wishes, Rich