How to clean up an old hardwood filing cabinet?

I've just acquired an old hardwood filing cabinet, which I guess was made some time between 1920 and 1950. Nice brass fittings. It needs smartening up. There are no major scratches on it, but the wood has accumulated a good bit of grime, as one would expect over 50 years. I'm not sure what finish it has had, if any. Can anyone advise me how to clean it up so it looks smart and clean? I'm not sure what kind of hardwood it is.
Thank you,
Jake
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I acquired a single drawer example of this which had been used in a foundry so was VERY encrusted with, well, muck.
I spent a lot of time on it with soap and water and a dishcloth. It came up beautifully and is still in use, forty years on.
Mary

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I somehow felt you would be the non-invasive spit and polish type Mary. Well done. Did you finish it with beaswax by any chance :=))
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foundry
up
I can be very invasive :-)

No, I don't do any of that elbow grease stuff any more. I once used beeswax polish (before I kept bees so it must be going on for thirty years ago) to polish the stripped (steel wool and turps) top of an ancient but very nice cantilever table. It gave a very beautiful finish but took ages.
And was ruined the first time someone put a hot mug without a saucer on it.
When it got too bad again (two or three years ago) I stripped it again and did it with polyurethane.
The filing cabinet had been finished with button polish I guess and was only filthy. It had been in a foundry lab.
Mary
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On Sun, 21 Sep 2003 19:47:19 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com (Jake) wrote:

Cleaning wood is too variable to describe well in text.
What's the finish ? Are you trying to avoid damaging that, or strip it too ? Start with a good scrubbing. Plain soap is good, as is Ecover washing-up liquid, or some shampoos.
Personally I like caustic soda for shifting heavy grease, but you have to be careful not to strip (some) finishes too. Washing soda is a gentler start.
Avoid ammonia. It'll attack shellac finishes and it'll darken oak.

Oak would be typical. Any sign of the ray-flake pattern ? If you look at end-grain, you might see some radial dark lines. If you find a near-radial face ("quartersawn") then you can see the "flake" pattern as these get sliced through.
-- Smert' spamionam
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white spirit and wire-wool (gently does it tho)
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On Mon, 22 Sep 2003 10:40:44 +0100, "Baxter Basics"
I've given up on steel wool - I use the plastic abrasives instead (3M or Webrax). Easier to work with, and they don't leave rust-spots as steel wool can do.
-- Smert' spamionam
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On Sun, 21 Sep 2003 19:47:19 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com (Jake) wrote:
Thanks everyone for the replies. It looks to me as if the cabinet probably had one coat of button polish or similar, and that was it. Or perhaps it was just waxed.
I'm not sure if it's oak or not. The wood looks a little too yellow where it is bare, and a little too orangey whee it has been finished.
Unusual grain on the face of one of the drawers: looks like light-coloured tiger stripes about 5mm at their thickest point, which interrupt a more uniform fine-grain. Quite a nice feature.
On reconsidering, I think it looks 1940s to 1950s. The back is actually a piece of hardboard that you can slide out from the bottom. That looks much the same as modern hardboard. But then, hardboard has been around for many years, hasn't it? I remember it was around in the 50's.
Jake
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On Mon, 22 Sep 2003 20:01:46 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com (Jake) wrote:

Wax alone would be unusual. If it's '50s (which is likely) then it would be shellac on a good piece or cellulose lacquer.

You can't tell from the colour - it's too easily changed by finishes.

Sounds like quartersawn oak
http://www.swartzendruber.com/html/quartersawn_oak.html

Postwar. Prewar stuff (it was first made during WW1, but didn't become popular until the '30s) was usually fibreboard and didn't have the extremely hard face on one side that we think of as hardboard todat.
-- Smert' spamionam
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On Tue, 23 Sep 2003 01:23:23 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com (Jake) wrote:

Picture ? -- Smert' spamionam
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I love this newsgroup.
There is a saying amongst the Jewish community......
2 Jews, 3 opinions. Round here it's more like.... well, lots of opinions anyways!
B rgds
Chris
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anyways!
I've never heard it of Jews but I've used it of beekeepers.
Then I realised that it's true of all communities and adds to our wealth of learning - even when some opinions are patently not worth the candle.
Mary

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On Tue, 23 Sep 2003 01:23:23 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com (Jake) wrote:

PS, but that was nearly 10 years ago. Probably be $750 now..
Thanks for all the suggestions. I will proceed with cleaning and how it goes.
Jake
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