Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

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EarlH
Victor III
Posts: 755
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:25 pm
Location: North Central Iowa

Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by EarlH »

I bought this A-250 a couple of months ago and I've been refinishing it. The original finish was ok, but had a big scrape down the one side where it looked like someone slid it into a vehicle. I really don't mind refinishing stuff, so I kind of see that as a "plus" so I don't have to get into the argument about someone's favorite finish rejuvenator. So, here is where I'm at with this Edison. I left a few parts of the cabinet alone as they were in nice shape, but I did clean and sand them some and go over them with the varnish I'm using on the rest of the cabinet. The piece of wood that goes around the turntable is one of the parts I left alone so I thought I'd take a few pictures and show how well this old Golden Oak finish recipe worked for the color on the cabinet. This did have a piano finish on it when it left the factory.
The stain is 1 part Asphaltum Varnish which I bought from Letterhead Sign Supply.
1 part Winsor & Newton Gold Japan Size.
2 parts Pure Gum Turpentine.
It will pretty much look black when you get it mixed up and it does not smell bad because of the turpentine. You MUST use turpentine and not mineral spirits. The mixture will sort of fill the grain and give it that black look that is usually associated with golden oak. I usually fill the grain then, and I actually don't like the grain filler to be black so I use very dark brown (burnt umber or Cyprus dark umber) to fill the grain. I usually leave whatever I'm working on sit at least two days between coats of anything to make sure it's completely dry. After the stain coat is completely dry, then I'll fill the grain. Because the 'stain' is more of a coating, it will keep the grain filler from changing the overall color of the wood and just fill the grain. It's a good idea to always leave grain filler sit a week before you put anything over it. I've never had much luck with water based grain fillers as they dry too fast, so I've always used oil based fillers. You can get the natural color and add pigment to it to get the color you want. If you buy your pigments from a good source, they will mention in the description if the pigment you are looking at is prone to fading. I don't use dye grade pigments for grain filler as they are ground much finer and tend to change the color of the wood. With quarter sawn oak you really don't want that as the flake should show off, especially with golden oak.
After the grain filler is dry, then I went over it with a thin coat of de-waxed orange shellac and it now has three coats of varnish on it. I think if I were going to spray lacquer over it, I'd probably give it two coats of shellac, or give it a couple of dry coats of lacquer before I put on a full wet coat. I am pretty sure the asphaltum varnish will dissolve in lacquer, but I'm not sure on that. Asphaltum varnish is interesting stuff they use it to shade gold leaf, and it's acid proof. That is what was used to make the ID tags you see in your Victrolas and Edison's, et. I almost took a job 35 years ago making ID tags and they still used the method that was used on those tags 100 years ago. Basically, the varnish was printed on the brass, tin plated brass, or whatever and coated on the back. Then it was dipped in acid for however long it took to get to the depth that was needed. After that, the id tags were put in a solution to make the background dark, the varnish was then washed off and then stamped out in a big punching machine. I can't remember what they did if the background was painted. I spent a day there learning the process but then they hired someone else. She quit a few weeks later, and in the meantime UPS hired me, so I've been a delivery driver ever since.
When the varnish is hard enough it can be rubbed out so it won't be quite as wet looking as it is right now. It will look much better once that dripping wet look is knocked off. Anyway, I thought some of you might like seeing how this color is working out for me. I've been really happy with this old recipe that I found in a 1912 book on wood finishing.
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Inside of the cabinet with the original color on the wood strip
Inside of the cabinet with the original color on the wood strip
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JeffR1
Victor I
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:04 pm

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by JeffR1 »

I've seen many cabinets done by a DYI job, you're one of the few that uses grain filler.
I would like to know what brand of filler you use please ?

EarlH
Victor III
Posts: 755
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:25 pm
Location: North Central Iowa

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by EarlH »

I get my grain filler from Diamond Vogel here in town, but it's just the "Old Masters" brand. I think all of the brands these days are about alike. There are hardly any choice left these days and they are making it hard for oil based finishing products to be marketed. I used to buy it from Constantine's, but I don't even think they are in business anymore. Behlen makes the Por-O-Pac grain filler and it works fine as well. I really don't like using the water based stuff as it dries too fast on large areas. And I do use burlap, cotton rags, picks, old credit cards, et. to clear it out of corners and so forth. I do not go to the trouble of trying to fill the grain where there is a lot of carving as that can turn into a huge ordeal trying to clean out all of the excess. Behlen was the reason I started buying pigment and adding it to the natural color as I just didn't like the colors they offered. "Earth Pigments" is where I usually buy my pigments from.

I think if you are trying to do a good job of refinishing old furniture, especially things that were expensive in those days, you really need to fill the grain or there's no way it will look like it should. 25-30 years ago I used to drag home free upright pianos to practice refinishing on and then give them away. I don't think I'd do that today as I don't know who would want a piano these days. But, there is a lot of canvas to practice on with those things.

JeffR1
Victor I
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:04 pm

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by JeffR1 »

Thanks for that, I'm always looking for other ways to do things.

Here's a restoration of a RR Silver Wraith, I used an automotive clear coat to fill the grain _ lots of blocking, so anything to cut the time.
I would have to do some compatibility checks though, one being an oil base and the other an an alcohol base.
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EarlH
Victor III
Posts: 755
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:25 pm
Location: North Central Iowa

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by EarlH »

That really turned out nice for you. If the oil based grain filler is completely dry, you won't have any trouble going over it with shellac or lacquer. On a car though, I'd just want to make sure everything is light fast. I haven't noticed any fading on anything I've refinished in the last 20 years or so, but none of it's in direct sunlight all that often either. It's a lot of work and time consuming to put a piano finish on wood. I lived in Britain for 18 months back in the early 80's and did ride in a few cars that were all fitted with wood trim. Remarkable fit and finish in those things. Thanks for sharing those pictures, you do good work!

JeffR1
Victor I
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:04 pm

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by JeffR1 »

Thanks for that, the automotive clear coat was great to use with it's catalytic hardener (very high build quality) _ very smelly though, I had to use a full face respirator.
The clear coat would have a UV blocker in it, in the end it shouldn't matter, these cars should always be kept in a climate controlled garage with their ash wood frames, hand made aluminum bodies, leather and wood.
It's shocking how many people just park them out on the street !
Any thing with all these natural products needs a lot of care and attention, they're not like todays cars made out of plastic that can be neglected.

And about the fit and finish, I had to make many improvements of the joinery, or what there was of it.
I was surprised at how poorly it was done with butt joints blocks of wood and screws, most of the joints were moving and full of cracks.

I inquired about that, and was told that many of the builders were lost in the Second World War, and most of the skilled laborers were not around anymore.

EarlH
Victor III
Posts: 755
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:25 pm
Location: North Central Iowa

Re: Quarter Sawn Golden Oak

Post by EarlH »

There's probably a lot to the body-makers getting lost or found another occupation during and after WWII. I knew an old guy 20 years ago that was a piano tuner/rebuilder and he REALLY knew his trade. He could build a piano and studied piano making back in the 40's. Anyway, he said that they used to joke around about Steinway going out of business in 1940 for pretty much the same reason, except so much of the really good help they had bailed and went to make munitions. Some of those guys were still spooked about the collapse of the piano trade in the late 20's and then the depression, so when something else came along that looked more promising, they bailed. Can hardly blame them.

I used to have a '41 Buick and drove it for about 10 years. I really liked that car a lot, but it was to the point where it was going to cost a fortune so matter how I looked at it. But it was interesting to read through the old books on car repair and how to deal with the issues of the wood Fisher bodies that were still around in the 40's. Talcum powder for body squeaks was one tip I remember. People now just think old cars are like modern cars, with just different sheet metal around them. It's hard to explain with those quirky old cars, but there is something about them that really makes you look forward to going somewhere in them. Not a 10 hour drive as they do require that you pay attention to what you're doing the whole time. But I really did look forward to going somewhere if I knew I could get it out of the shed. I put about 65,000 miles on it while I had it, but some guy offered me more than it was worth one afternoon, so it's his girl now. Haha!

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