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Old Philco radio finish

4882 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  ejp
Does anyone know if the 1940's Philco radios originally came in a semi-gloss or satin finish? See attachments. The radio you see was made in 1941.

BTW, in a post a couple months ago, someone recommended that rather than strip down to bare wood, I just re-coat with spray lacquer and disolve/meld with the old finish. I did and it worked great! The cracks and voids you see below disappeared. Of course I carefully wet-sanded off about 20% of the original finish to flatten out warpage in the surface and/or veneer. The radio was temperature cycled for 40 years in my garage lofts from 30 deg to probably 150 deg or more in summer.

Unfortunately due to a series of blunders (long boring story), I will now be doing a full strip. This was always a bit of a science project anyway.

The 3rd attachment (pdf) is a 1951 Philco write-up on how they finished their radios. I plan to follow that as best I can. I found it here.

I plan to use brushed on shellac as grain filler. Am undecided yet on whether to brush on amber or spray clear for the filler. Can not find the amber in a spray can and would rather spray for uniform thickness. I read that orange/amber shellac gives walnut a warmer glow, however, I also plan to apply a Minwax walnut stain first that's true to the original color, so may not do the amber depending on how it turns out after the stain. The shellac will seal in the oil based stain since I'm spraying Deft lacquer from a can. I've had excellent results with the spray cans, with a 400 grit wet sand with mineral spirits between coats. It's as flat and smooth as a sheet of glass. It will be a shame to hit it with the Jasco paint remover and 4/0 steel wool, but I've screwed up the color on the top and one side. This is a "no compromise" project.

Thanks for any info/advice.


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I went to google images and found some similar radios and they were done in a semi-gloss finish. Shellac won't do any more as a grain filler than a lacquer finish but the amber shellac can be used to age the finish and give it a warmer color. The original finish was probably done with a nitrocellulose lacquer and yellowed over the years. The amber shellac will restore that look. It would be much easier and better to fill the grain with a pastewood grain filler. I'm unable to do PDF with my internet and computer so I can't get that attachment. I think if you used a coat of amber shellac to age it and then clear coated it it would come out about the color it is now. It looks about the natural color of walnut. The original finish was probably done with a nitrocellulose lacquer and yellowed over the years. The amber shellac will restore that look.
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Thanks for your info and advice. I agree. While I'm reluctant to trash the Philco decal, I did find a source for knobs and the escutcheon (cracked/warped) and he said he'd throw in a free decal. Here's the site for anyone interested. He has exact replacement new replica plastic. My knobs are fine but the pushbuttons are totally rotted away from decades in the garage loft.


Oddly, that's my exact radio on his website but it looks like a glossy restoration. I will now do semi-gloss vs satin, my original plan.

Thanks again!
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