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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone,

I'm going to attach some photos of a vanity and dresser that I acquired from my grandparents. I think they are depression era but not positive.

I'd like to know if

1. Anyone can identify the wood
2. Advice on what to use to maintain the finish, I'm pretty sure they have the original finish
3. I need to refinish the top on the vanity. It was under a roof that leaked and up against the mirror the veneer is bubbled, though I think it can probably be glued back down. Won't be perfect but doable I think. There is also another fairly large water damage area but the veneer is intact. So I'm wondering what's the best thing to do there? I think the finish on the rest of the piece can stay original

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This furniture is harder to see. It looks like a mixture of woods. The top drawer front on the dressing table looks like walnut where the drawers below I believe is sycamore.

The finish could be maintained by waxing it annually with a heavy wax like johnson paste wax and using any furniture polish or lemon to dust with.

Unless the veneer on the top has some major discoloration you should be able to glue it down and refinish it. I would glue the veneer down first before stripping the finish. Sometimes on a larger area if you strip the finish with loose veneer the veneer will wrinkle up so bad it's really difficult to get to lay back down. Refinishing isn't a winter sport anyway. No remover works well below 70 degrees so I would put off doing that. On repairing the veneer I normally take a utility knife or exacto knife and slit the veneer with the grain down the center of the damaged area. Then I take a artist spatula and lift the edge of the veneer and insert a liberal amount of wood glue under the veneer and press the glue from the center out sometimes repeating the process until you are certain the glue has spread all the way out to edges of the void. Then I take a J roller and roll the area until glue stops comming out and clean off the glue on the surface. Then I take a hot iron like you iron clothes with and heat the area accellerating the drying time of the glue so clamping isn't necessary. Let this dry at least overnight before stripping the finish.

The best retail remover I've used is Kleen Strip. It is a semi-paste remover that is easier to keep wet. With any remover it's important to keep the surface wet with the chemical the whole time you are working it. Brush a liberal amount of the remover on and let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Since you are doing only the top I would mask the rest of the dressing table off with multiple layers of paper covered by plastic to prevent getting the remover on the rest of the furniture. Let the remover do the work. If you start scraping the finish off and not all of it is comming off let it soak longer. You can use a brass stripping brush on the routed edge of the top. Once you start taking the finish off the chemical dries really fast so work as quick as you can. As soon as you get finish off the top wash the residue off with lacquer thinner changing rags. They put wax in removers to prevent evaporation so it is important to thoroughly clean the residue off. It may look clean but leave some of the wax on the wood and interfere with the new finish.
 

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Hi Everyone,

I'm going to attach some photos of a vanity and dresser that I acquired from my grandparents. I think they are depression era but not positive.

I'd like to know if

1. Anyone can identify the wood
2. Advice on what to use to maintain the finish, I'm pretty sure they have the original finish
3. I need to refinish the top on the vanity. It was under a roof that leaked and up against the mirror the veneer is bubbled, though I think it can probably be glued back down. Won't be perfect but doable I think. There is also another fairly large water damage area but the veneer is intact. So I'm wondering what's the best thing to do there? I think the finish on the rest of the piece can stay original

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year's back i used to strip furnature down , lot's of it the top dresser with a mirror i would do just as litte to the fihish as needed , that will be a real job. sometime the finish that is on their will look better if a nice cleaning and a good polish is used. sometimes you can use a sharp knife and cut a slit in the veneer and put glue in their . wipe the glue that come's out , you dont want glue to dry on the old finish. after it is dry clean the top and polish . should look good
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I might get lucky and have some warm enough days to go ahead and strip it, winter in TX is interesting. 70 one, 18 the next, that kind of thing.

When I do refinish that top, should I try to determine what the old finish was and match that, or just go ahead and do something more bulletproof?

I've been gel staining some interior doors and trim and using a Sherwin Williams WB poly over that and it's been fun and easy to work with. Sort of tempted to go that way but at the same time, drawn toward staying with the original finish. Any thoughts on that?
 

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I might get lucky and have some warm enough days to go ahead and strip it, winter in TX is interesting. 70 one, 18 the next, that kind of thing.

When I do refinish that top, should I try to determine what the old finish was and match that, or just go ahead and do something more bulletproof?

I've been gel staining some interior doors and trim and using a Sherwin Williams WB poly over that and it's been fun and easy to work with. Sort of tempted to go that way but at the same time, drawn toward staying with the original finish. Any thoughts on that?
It isn't necessary to find out what the old finish is since it will be removed. The wood is just colored with a clear coating over it so it doesn't matter if it is the same or not. In all likelyhood the old finish is a nitrocellulose lacquer but if you are better working with a polyurethane that would be fine as long as you used a similar sheen. The lacquer was fine for that furniture. It was just the leak that was an issue. A nitrocellulose lacquer just isn't water resistant enough to withstand something like that. Lacquer is something though that needs to be sprayed. I wouldn't use a gel stain. It is more of a modern item that would obscure the wood making the appearance of the wood look different than the rest of it. When I refinish a piece of furniture especially when just doing part of it try to re-create what the other person did when it was originally finished. This would be a oil stain with perhaps toners to adjust the color and a clear finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yes, sorry I wasn't clear. I didn't mean to use gel stain on this, just that I like the WB poly I was using over it.

Would definitely just use a regular stain and finish over it on the vanity, don't want to make the top look different from the rest.

Thanks!
 

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Yes, sorry I wasn't clear. I didn't mean to use gel stain on this, just that I like the WB poly I was using over it.

Would definitely just use a regular stain and finish over it on the vanity, don't want to make the top look different from the rest.

Thanks!
If you like working with the water based poly keep in mind it isn't compatable with the linseed oil in stain. You need to let the stain dry three days to a week depending on the weather before directly applying the poly over the stain. If the wait isn't an option you can put a coat of Zinsser Sealcoat over the stain and then procede with the poly. The Sealcoat is compatable with the stain and the water based poly will adhere to the Sealcoat.
 

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I don't think I would strip the pieces. I agree with the poster about doing the least amount of work into the finish. I would start with a mild soap solution used on a damp cloth, and just clean it. When dry a good wipe down with mineral spirits.

You could do touch ups with a small artists brush and some dye mix. Waterbase poly would be a good finish, and will adhere to any dry finish. It's best to spray it in thin applications.






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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm not planning to refinish anything except the top of the vanity that is water damaged. I'll get some photos of that and see if anyone thinks there is any way to salvage it without a refinish. It's pretty sad looking though.
 

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I'm not planning to refinish anything except the top of the vanity that is water damaged. I'll get some photos of that and see if anyone thinks there is any way to salvage it without a refinish. It's pretty sad looking though.
A picture would be good. If it has gotten wet enough to lift the veneer you won't be able to salvage it without refinishing. The real question is if it can be salvaged without replacing the veneer on that section. Since veneer is so thin it lets out doing major sanding to get rid of the water damage. Sometimes you can bleach a spot like that though, and minor sanding will do the trick.
 

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Some old glue like hide glue can be re-activated with a hot iron. Maybe you could try that first on the loose veneer before taking more drastic steps. You could also inject a little glue under the loose sections if the iron doesn't work and clamp them down. Any gaps could be repaired with touch up techniques like burn-ins and hand painting the grain back. I also think a very light sand and fresh coat of sealer will bring back the life of the wood, if it doesn't work you are no worse off. :smile: I would use a de-waxed shellac for this as it will adhere to almost anything. Use a thin 1 lb coat for the first seal coat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Pictures of the Vanity Top

Thanks for the responses. Here are the photos. The area where the veneer is lifted is in the back, up against the mirror. The one more linear area looks like nail polish remover or something like that completely stripped the area and the big blog on the right seems more like a water spot.

As far as repairing with shellac, I'd like to hear more detail on that because I don't really know much about that.

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The top looks beyond touching up to me. The finish on the dressing table is very likely lacquer. If you would quickly wipe the top of it down with lacquer thinner it would show you what it would look like if you recoated it. I suspect the finish would be in different colors if you recoated the finish and would need refinishing for the best results. The wood looks pretty good though with the exception of this spot. I can't see it well enough in the picture to say. If it is just the finish gone then it should refinish fine. I wouldn't use shellac on it if you recoat it. I would use lacquer. You could still cut into the veneer and make the repair and be able to recoat it. It would just take more elbow grease in that spot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The wood in that spot that you circled is OK I think it's just that something completely lifted the finish. Could you point me in right direction for using lacquer to finish it? I don't really know anything about that but am happy to learn.

Thanks!
 

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The wood in that spot that you circled is OK I think it's just that something completely lifted the finish. Could you point me in right direction for using lacquer to finish it? I don't really know anything about that but am happy to learn.

Thanks!
With other coatings you scuff the surface and the finish adheres like glue to the scratches. Because of other substances that have gotten into the finish and wood like wax and polishes the finish may or may not bond very well. It goes on in layers like enamel. With lacquer when you wet it with the solvent it dissolves so if you recoat with lacquer it melts into the old finish and becomes part of the old finish. It will also melt into shellac if that is the old finish. If the old finish is lacquer it makes a better finish for this reason. On the other hand if the old finish is varnish the solvents in lacquer are too hot to use on varnish. It can wrinkle the finish and lift it like you put paint and varnish remover on it so if there is any doubt some testing in an inconspicuous place is a good idea.

Lacquer is just a clear coating however it dries really quick. Because it dries so fast it is something that needs to be sprayed. If you don't have the means of spraying it is available in rattle can in a lot of places. I've even seen it at walmart. Before recoating the furniture with any coating it should be thoroughly cleaned. Over the years dirt and oils and waxes have accumulated on it and will interfere with the way the new finish performs. I normally use a product first called Krud Kutter sold by Sherwin Williams. This removes the dirt and grime pretty good. Then there is the issue of furniture polish. Some especially the aerosol type contain silicone which gets into the finish and in your case were the finish is gone in places may be imbedded into the wood. You never get it all off but it's a good idea to clean as much off as possible. Some folks wash the furniture down with naphtha frequently changing rags to pick up the wax and remove it. I prefer to use a product called Prepsol Solvent made by Dupont. It is an automotive product sold by places that sell automotive paint formulated to wash off car wax in preparation to paint.

If you end up refinishing, taking the old finish off you could use any coating. Polyurethane would be more resistant to the water damage the dressing table has on it now. From the 1920's through the 1970's lacquer just became really popular because it dried so fast it made finishing really quick and easy. A company could finish a piece of furniture in the morning and make delivery that afternoon. Lacquer is falling out of favor now because it is susceptible to water damage and environmental reasons.

 

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Thanks for the responses. Here are the photos. The area where the veneer is lifted is in the back, up against the mirror. The one more linear area looks like nail polish remover or something like that completely stripped the area and the big blog on the right seems more like a water spot.

As far as repairing with shellac, I'd like to hear more detail on that because I don't really know much about that.

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View attachment 87487
Pictures like those would have been nice at the beginning, to make an evaluation.





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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sorry about not including that detail first. My primary goal initially was to learn more about the wood types and the original finish so I can care for the rest of the set, but I definitely appreciate the help with this ruined top.

What about the unfinished wood on these old pieces and the wardrobe I also posted about? Should the inside of the wardrobe or the backs of these pieces be waxed or something? They seem very dry and it seems like they would want some kind of protection as well?

Thanks!
 

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Sorry about not including that detail first. My primary goal initially was to learn more about the wood types and the original finish so I can care for the rest of the set, but I definitely appreciate the help with this ruined top.

What about the unfinished wood on these old pieces and the wardrobe I also posted about? Should the inside of the wardrobe or the backs of these pieces be waxed or something? They seem very dry and it seems like they would want some kind of protection as well?

Thanks!
It's real common for the inside of a wardrobe not to have a finish on it. I believe it was probably done to safe money making them. There is no reason you can't clean it up and finish the inside as well. The inside without having a finish on it would dry out faster than the rest of it so it would help a little to put a finish on it. It could be as simple as an oil finish where you just wipe it on and wipe it off and let dry. Odors from the finish will linger for a week or more so I would not use the wardrobe in this time. You could also put a film finish on the inside if you wished.
 

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It's real common for the inside of a wardrobe not to have a finish on it. I believe it was probably done to safe money making them. There is no reason you can't clean it up and finish the inside as well. The inside without having a finish on it would dry out faster than the rest of it so it would help a little to put a finish on it. It could be as simple as an oil finish where you just wipe it on and wipe it off and let dry. Odors from the finish will linger for a week or more so I would not use the wardrobe in this time. You could also put a film finish on the inside if you wished.
I wouldn't finish the inside with an oil base finish of any kind. It will stink for a long time...could be months or longer. Lacquer would work. My preference would be a waterbase polyurethane.


 

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I wouldn't finish the inside with an oil base finish of any kind. It will stink for a long time...could be months or longer. Lacquer would work. My preference would be a waterbase polyurethane.





Perhaps if it was new wood but these old pieces of furniture are almost in a state of dry rot and could use moisturizing. And since the wood is so dry it absorbs the finish more and lessens the offgasing. Neither lacquer or water based polyurethane would do anything to help the wood itself so a person might as well let it be.
 
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