Happy Father's Day!
We picked up a couple of pieces of bedroom furniture from Grandma's basement to
use a starter furniture for my daughter's apartment. The best I can estimate
from the label on the back is that the pieces are at least 82 years old. (The
Conewango Furniture Company apparently went out of business in 1934.)
SWMBO wanted to clean them up, so she grabbed a bottle of Murphy Oil Soap and
went at it. The results can be seen on the rag in the image below. The "dirt"
seems to be more brown that the grey I would expect if it was just years of
dust. The pieces were not caked in grime or anything like that, in fact they
seemed pretty clean.
Murphy Oil Soap does say that it will remove "wax buildup" but I don't know
if the brown on the rags is old wax or actual finish. The finish was not shiny
before the cleaning and doesn't look much different now.
OK, so the main question is this: What can I (easily) apply in the next day
or so to enhance/protect the finish, keeping in mind that they will be loaded
into my trailer for the move on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I do not have time
to do a multi-step, hand-rub restoration. We are not looking to turn these
pieces into showroom pieces, just shine them up a bit for my daughter.
How much of a disservice would I be doing if I used one of the over-the-counter
"polishes", such as Old English, Pledge, etc.?
On Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 10:25:46 AM UTC-5, email@example.com wrote:
I've used Pate' Dugay, as has one decorator I work with, and I've used Tre-
Wax on bare wood. I've never used Tre-Wax on a finished piece/surface.
I think BriWax is similar to Tre-Wax, but I'm not sure if each of these has
silicone in them.
Pate Dugay is pretty good, just don't "cake" it on, before polishing. Use
small/thin applications, then wipe/rub it onto the surfaces, in somewhat s
mall areas at a time. After some good time, buff, then allow to "dry/cure"
over night, then buff again. Comes in different colors to assist in match
ing an original finish/stain/wood. A can goes a long way... will last year
s, if you don't have much to polish.
A caution with Pate Dugay: If your furniture has some dents and dings, the
wax will/may collect in the crevices, as you apply it. The "pockets" of w
ax won't, may not "dry/cure" properly or thoroughly, hence it stays soft or
moist. The soft wax, in these areas will/may come off, on your hands or
clothes, if you rub against the furniture. Hence don't cake it on, when a
pplying, and take care to rub-it-in, thoroughly. This coming-off on your
hands or clothes is most noticeable if a darker colored wax is used.
On Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 8:22:25 AM UTC-5, DerbyDad03 wrote:
I've cleaned and refinished a few similar pieces. I have a 1940s bedroom
set and an oak filing cabinet to do, as well.
Many of that era's pieces are finished with lacquer. Test a spot with lacq
uer thinner, to see if the finish is lacquer. If so, do a light wipe down,
of the whole piece, with lacquer thinner, then you're ready to spray it wi
On some of the pieces I've refinished, there's always some blemished spots
or embedded-smudge type areas that need detailed cleaning, if they can be '
cleaned" or removed. Sometimes, these trouble spots need sanding and touch
ed up (possibly restained to match), before refinishing.
I would not recommend using those polishes, as they may have silicone in th
em. Your new finish should be shine enough.
The Murphy may be taking off a lot of old stuff, this the brown rag.
Not a bad thing in the end.
I'd try Pledge or similar. I'd also take a good look later as it may be
a strtr set right now, but it may also be a pretty damned nice piece if
given some time for a good refinish later.
We moved when I was 5 years old and my parents bought a maple chest of
drawers for the room I shared with my brother. Years later, he took the
piece and his wife put one of those hideous but stylish at the time
antiquing kits on it. More years later I recovered it after he moved
and no longer wanted it. Stripped and refinished, I use it in my office
and it is a really nice piece of furniture, 66 years old.
On Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 2:47:58 PM UTC-5, Ed Pawlowski wrote:
At least two reasons:
1) Pledge (as with Old English oil) stays wet, though you don't feel the wetness. The wetness catches dust & dirt and builds a dust/grime layer.
2) Pledge has silicone in it. Silicone makes for problems, if ever you want to refinish the piece. Silicone affects an applied finish... I think rendering fisheye issues.
Really depends on your future intentions. Pledge containes silicone and
that's going to cause problems for you if you decide later to refinish
it (or for anybody else who decides to refinish it). If you have
absolutely no intention of ever refinishing it and don't care what
problems you cause for the next guy (or the plan is that it ends up
firewood after a while) then Pledge is fine.
I would guess that what you got on the rag was wax.
Since you are interested in "down & dirty, I wouldn't use a polish. I would
wipe it down thoroughly with naptha or mineral spirits to remove any
remaining wax then give irt a coat or two of plain old Johnson's Paste Wax,
let it dry and then buff.
On Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 11:07:40 AM UTC-7, dadiOH wrote:
Yes, definitely that's a good start; you can find out what the finish really
DOES look like after you wipe away the wax-encrusted grime of decades.
If you like the aged patina, don't refinish, just enjoy it as is.
It's possible that the finish is shellac over oil or stain, in which
case a little bit of french polishing (using linseed oil and shellac) will
do wonders for any blemishes, George Grotz's books (The Furniture Doctor,
Gunk to Glow) are a good guide to fixing up furniture in this age range.
There's some stuff called Howard Restor-A-Finish that's intended
specifically for what you are describing. It's got a little alcohol, a
little lacqer thinner, a little stain, and enough mineral spirits or
some such to keep it from being really agressive. It can work wonders
on older furniture. I don't know if Home Depot carries it or not.
You'll want it in the color that most closely matches what you're
working on. Put it on with a cloth, wipe with the grain until dry,
The brown stuff you're seeing may be tobacco smoke--it's amazing how
much of that can build up on surfaces in households where somebody
On Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 2:28:16 PM UTC-4, J. Clarke wrote:
Interesting theory on the smoke. If I think back on the possible history
of the furniture - assuming it is original to our family - there was only
one family member on that side that smoked. She was my grandmother's sister
and died many years before Grandma. If the furniture was the sister's, then
it may have spent some time in a smoker's house. There's no one left who
could tell us that.
In any case, there is no smoke odor lingering on the furniture. I think it's
been at least 30 years since the smoker died, not that that means much in
terms of smoke odor. :-(
I recall that the smoker gave me a rug for my bedroom when I got my first
apartment. Before I ever brought it inside, I took to a professional
carpet cleaning company where they the lay it flat and run it through a
I picked it up, brought it home, and put it in my bedroom (No easy feat since
the room was full of furniture). The next day I came home from work, removed
the rug from the bedroom (No easy feat since the room was full of furniture)
and threw it in the dumpster.
It took days to air out my apartment after less than 24 hours of the rug
being in there.
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