I have been restoring an English solid oak desk (circa 1910 - 1920). I have
fixed up a couple of structural problems and broken struts.
Looking for advice on fixing up the finish (mainly scratches), mainly on the
legs and the front of the drawers. I assumed it was shellac but when I
rubbed it with methylated spirit nothing happened. I thought it would start
to dissolve. Is it just that it's too hard after all this time? Could it be
some sort of varnish? Should I be fine sanding it?
Grateful for any suggestions.
Could well be. Spirit varnishes (natural resins in alcohol) would be
in period. These resins don't dissolve in alcohol unless heated, and
after years of exposure in a thin film they may be so oxidised they'll
never dissolve again.
You can try a few other solvent-based strippers. Dichloromethane and
methanol (a commercial stripper recipe, sold as Nitromors) may work.
If it's just very old shellac, you could try ammonia too.
If you can't soften it in situ, then scrape or sand may be
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