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600 Grit
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So about a week ago I noticed a friends neighbor having a garage sale here in Long Beach and decided to see if anything was worth buying and came across a beat up looking vanity that someone had painted white which was flaking off. Upon some inspection inside the drawers where I could get a better idea of its build and how old it was, I saw that some of the nails on the interior had square heads which was a definite sign of being pretty old. I asked the homeowner how much he wanted for the piece of furniture and he told me $50, and i said "sold!"

Fast forward a week, many hours of stripping old white paint, a light sanding, and a coat of Watco Dark Walnut and Cherry mixed 60/40 (my favorite for gunstocks)... and here is what happened to be hidden away under the paint...

(it's still in pieces since I have yet to finish building a new bottom for the bottom drawer which was falling to pieces)








I'm not sure about you guys, but I was utterly shocked to find that many years ago someone actually took a can of white paint and slathered it all over such a beautiful piece of furniture!

Another bonus I discovered while taking apart the lower drawer to make the new bottom... someone many years ago had used a dime to shim the center rail slider and wasn't in a spot where it wasn't an accident in my opinion. The dime was a Barber silver dime dated 1898-O minted in New Orleans and was in fantastic condition. Value is probably around $200. After selling it I plan on giving half the money to the family I bought the Vanity from because apparently times have been tough for them and the husband recently lost his job because the company left California.


Anyways... I wanted to get an opinion on what to use as a protective finish on all the wood. The hand carved detailing on the drawer faces and around the mirror are very delicate and even though I've gone and used a syringe with CA hot stuff in a few places, it would be too risky to continue using Danish Oil since it takes too long to dry and that was the reason things were coming apart on me. My original idea was to use BLO, but that idea lasted about 5 minutes.

I'd like to use a finish that gives it some nice satin shine like you'd get from a oil finish. Would Shellac be the way to go? suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

Unfortunately there is no indication of who made it, but my guess is based on the square nails and
 

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In the 1960's it was stylish to have painted furniture so a lot of it got the spray can. You did a nice job refinishing it but it needs some better hardware. The pulls are too modern for the piece and do you have the keyhole covers? You might look at www.vandykes.com for some reproduction hardware.

As far as the finish it would depend a lot on if you have the means of spraying or not. Shellac is not a good choice to work by hand. Each coat melts into the previous coat so you would be removing a lot of the previous coat brushing it. Shellac is otherwise a good finish that a lot of people like. Since you have a Danish oil finish on it already, I would recommend a oil based polyurethane for a protective coating.
 

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Walburg Tx
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I strip furniture and refinish for a side business. I only use satin lacquer as a finish. After stain of course. Geminii is my preference. Sprayed on and no more than three coats. Scuffing with 220+ between each coat.
 

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600 Grit
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32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do you have spray equipment (compressor, gun, and some skill)?
All of the above. But all my experience is with painting cars, almost exclusively with PPG Deltron Urethane and Acrylic Urethane high performance products.

The shop I used to work at used these products: http://www.ppg.com/coatings/refinish/en/products/deltron/Pages/systemSelection.aspx

I'm sure many of the techniques learned painting cars would translate to some extent, especially gun control and settings... but I'd definitely want to practice before attempting to shoot lacquer on a wood surface. ;)
 

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600 Grit
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So I put a little more work in today. Re-sanded much of what I already watco'ed because I really didn't expect the wood to be so pretty. I also didn't spend enough time on the details which were kinda rough. The interior and drawers all got a thorough cleaning and re-lubrication with BLO/Turp. I've worked on 100+ year old firearms and I've never come across wood so incredibly dry. Only after brushing on two generous coats of the BLO/Turp did the wood require a wipe down with a dry towel. I'm going to let things dry for about a week before spraying it with a protective finish. I think i'm going to go with General Finishes Pre-CAT Enduro Urethane since i'm familiar with Urethane finishes and I know it will spray with my gun.

As for hardware... I've been looking around the net for Dresser/Vanity type furniture with original Victorian style hardware to get the best idea of what I should purchase and if anyone has experience in this, I'd appreciate any advice you can give.

In my searches, it seems the most people go with either the gaudy victorian style drop pulls as seen below...





Or the much more reserve pulls like here:



What style would you guys recommend as to make this piece appealing to the widest variety of potential buyers?





 

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600 Grit
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well... I decided to first do a coating of de-waxed shellac (Zinnser Seal Coat) cut to a 1.5lb sprayed out of my SATAjet 1000 RP with 1.3mm tip and everything went great. I'm sure someone is going to chime in saying that i'm crazy for the spray gun I used so I figured I'd let them know the gun was immediately stripped completely down, cleaned with alcohol, then all the parts thoroughly cleaned a second time in an ultrasonic cleaner. Not even 2-part epoxy clear coat withstands the sonic cleaner! :)

I should add that my first attempt was less than desirable because of my complete lack of knowledge when spraying shellac. The orange peel was horrible even when sprayed as thin as you would with an automotive base coat. So after a reduction in air pressure to 35psi, narrowing of the fan, and big reduction in material rate, it sprayed great. I've read a lot of people had this problem but rarely saw solutions, so I figured people could find this solution in the future while using the search feature.

I was actually amazed by how incredibly glossy and clear the shellac was. The stuff was so blindingly glossy that I had to knock it down with a white scotch brite pad. Here are the results. Excuse the horribly short depth of field, I used a 50mm 1.8f lens which is much better for portraits. :) But it sure takes a better photograph than my iPhone which I used previously.

 

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Please do not use either one of those pulls. You need to buy stamped brass pulls. Look at Van *****. You will find closely to what use to be on the dresser. I owned a refinishing shop for over 20 years and stamped brass is what that dresser had originally.
 

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600 Grit
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I ended up going with period reproductions from D.Lawless Hardware and have never been happier. Not only is everything solid brass, it came unlacquered so I could antique it myself. This lack of lacquer also made the hardware much cheaper price-wise but the quality is top notch.
To antique all the blindingly bright brass, I first washed them with acetone (in case there was any oil) then gave them a quick soak in boiling hot water mixed with vinegar and sea salt to bring out some pink color. Next I put everything on a mesh cooling rack (without washing off the salt/vinegar) and put it in the oven for 30 minutes @ 450'f. This darkened things up and the pink became more reddish. Next it got a good washing, then was ammonia fumed in a sealed container for a couple hours using "clear" ammonia. This made things much darker, more even, and added blue-green color to the hardware. Lastly, I used my buffing wheel to carefully shine up just the high points like you see when people polish the hardware while still mounted to the furniture. I didn't lacquer the brass because I want a natural patina to develop in time.

As for the dresser, it's almost done. I ended up using my HVLP gun to give everything multiple coats of dewaxed shellac, and after the initial failed attempt (it was rough as heck), i dialed the pressure down to 35psi on my 1.3mm tip gravity feed gun and narrowed the pattern and everything laid down beautifully. The finish actually turned out incredibly glossy, like it was french polished, so I knocked down the shine a bit using a ultra fine scotch brite pad and followed that up with Johnson Paste Wax.

Here are the results:




The two vertical pieces and the mirror are almost ready to be installed as well. I'm just waiting for the two mounting hinges for the mirror. It's incredibly difficult to find cheval mirror hinges long enough to work properly. Almost all of the real brass ones, once fit through the support posts only have about 1/4" of thread left. Not enough IMO.
 

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You did a really nice job and I like your choice for hardware. My mother has a chest very similar to that one with the original hardware and it looks the same. Just for reference on your complaint about the shellac being too shinny they make an additive called shellac flat that you could use to make it anywhere from semi-gloss to satin. It's similar to the flattening agent that is made for varnishes and lacquers.
 
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