I have an old (1840ish) walnut table top on which I propose doing the
following after washing with lacquer thinner denatured alcohol mix,
scraping and sanding: restain top with a walnut stain followed by a
light garnet shellac application and finally some thin coats of boiled
linseed oil. Is this procedure ok to use or is there something else I
should do? Thanks. Duffer04
Thanks for the reply. (I am new at doing this kind of restoration)
1. Yes,probably varnish.
2. The piece had been stained before and in removing the varnish some
of the stain has been removed. Originally this country piece had been
painted and a long time ago stripped- stained- varnish. There are still
minute white specks in the wood that the stain covered. The piece is a
five leg drop leaf table that opens to a length of 96" and has a width
of 44.5" I was thinking of re staining the top to even out the color.
I was told by a local furniture builder/restorer that the wood was
"probably" walnut. The secondary wood is chestnut (likely) and the
turned legs a close grained hardwood.
3. Shellac-- to seal the wood (?)
4. BLO- to solve the problem of water stains etc.(?)
5. It needs something to protect the surface and stain to even the
Last- My dad had a recipe he used decades ago to solve the problems of
water/alcohol stains. 1/4 super spar varnish, 1/4 BLO, and 1/2 turp.
(My oldGeorge Grotz book on furniture says to never use Spar varnish).
I was thinking of using this.
So it sounds like you are back to partially stained bare wood. If the table
is solid wood (not veneer), I would try sanding to get out most of the
Any "stain" that accludes white paint has gobs of pigment in it. Pigment is
opaque stuff that will obscure both the paint spots and the wood. Lots of
pigment is called paint. We are all about seeing the wood here, not
The first pass of the top coat os a perfectly good sealer... there's no
reason to mess with a separate product (to the group: don't get me wrong, I
like shellac as a sanding sealer, but for a newbie, that extra complication
is not worth the subtle advantages)
BLO is a lousy top coat. It's soft, and compareed to alternatives, it is
rather *pervious* to water
Use a wipe-on poly, or a wipe-on Varnish such as Waterlox. 3 or fours coats
of either will both seal and give you decent surface protection. You should
use a wipe-on product because it goes on thinner and any potential finnish
imperfections (dust,drips,runs) will be correspondingly smaller. Many thin
coats always gives a better result than one thick one.
The question really was... what's wrong with the finish that is/was there?
Simplified: this is a long-oil wiping varnish. Varnish is a mix of oil and
resin, you're just adding more oil. The turps makes the mix thinner (see my
comments on wipe-on products above). It changes the viscosity for the
purposes of application, but evaporates shortly thereafter and is not a
factor in the cured finish.
Products like Waterlox, or "danish oil" are typically some form of
resin/oil/solvent mix using a proprietary ratio and choice of ingredients.
Home brews, such as your Dad's recipe can work very well. However, if you
don't have the time or inclination to experiment, a commercially mixed
product, for which you get first hand recommendations, can be a better bet.
Ok, sounds like none of the original finish is left to be preserved.
The word varnish is often used as a generic for any hard tranparent
finish hence we have 'water-based' varnishes today and I've read
claims that 'violin varnish' is shellac.
But in general varnish is a finish made by cooking a resin,
a 'drying' oil, thinner and a 'drying agent' under pressure and
in the absence of oxygen.
A varnish can be long-oil,. normal, or short-oil. Spar varnish
is a long-oiol varnish, meaning it has a higher oil to resin
ratio and produces a softer but more flexible finish suitable
for spars. A short oil varnish has a lower oil to resin ratio
and would be suitable for a tabletop. The finish you mention
has a few variations, 1-1-1 and 1-2-3 hae been suggested
here on the rec. Spar varnish is probably not the varnish you
want to use for the 1-1-2 finish, it already has extra oil in it.
The formulas produce a 'wiping varnish' that is applied with
a rag and may be similar to what you'd get by just thinning
spar varnish, though when you add you own oil you are
adding 'uncooked' oil to the 'cooked' oil in the varnish.
This is not the first time I have heard of using oil over shellac.
Not sure what the effect is, but I'd guess it cuts the gloss
You are right about changing the value antiques but when my daughter
found this table at the side of the road it had really been damaged.
Two of the legs were held on with angle irons. I took the whole table
apart, built a new side rail from an old old piece of oak, re glued
pieces as necessary, and put the pieces all back together. So far it's
coming along nicely. The piece orignally had been painted white and
many years ago, I believe, stripped, stained and varnished. The table
top was a bit grungy looking. So as an antique its value is somewhat
questionable. My daughter's answer to the question here and in general
is to paint it. It hopefully look better when I finish. Depending on
how this turns out I would contemplate building table leaves so the
full extension of the table (96") can be used.
1. What's the finish now (varnish, probably)?
2. Why stain walnut?
3. Why shellac?
4. Why - especially - BLO on top of a surface finish?
5. Why refinish at all?
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You are doing the right thing by refinishing or at least restoring the
table. Based on your description in a subsequent posting, the table has
been through at least one attempt at refinishing. Even the Keno brothers
have finally admitted that proper restoration will actually increase the
value of an antique when properly needed and done.
There is no need to wash with a lacquer thinner and alcohol mix (an AMT
stripper). Cleaning to remove grease and water soluble dirt is what is
needed. You say you are going to scrape and sand so you will be removing
the top most layer of wood. You may as well just strip it so you don't have
as much work. You will also be left with a cleaner surface which a light
sanding will make nearly perfect. The sanding might not even be necessary.
By the way, how do you know that the current finish is varnish? If it
softens or becomes sticky with alcohol, you have shellac. If it does so
only with lacquer thinner, you have lacquer. In either case, an AMT
stripper would actually be perfect in these cases as they dry quickly and do
not need post washing.
The "flecks of paint" are very likely not paint but residual grain
filler. This is very common in older pieces of the age you suspect the
table is. It is very hard to remove the filler completely and I have only
had success with a brass brush no matter how many times the surface is
stripped. You may need to use a different finishing schedule to hide any
remaining grain filler (see below).
Restaining is fine if you wish to reproduce the old patina. If not, and
there are no obvious color differences in the boards of the top that detract
from the beauty of the surface, you can skip the staining if you like.
Garnet shellac is a good toner. I use it quite a bit on cherry.
An oil is not going to do anything on top of a film finish like shellac.
It will not penetrate into wood that is sealed with shellac. You might
consider reversing the schedule - put the oil on first, let it cure, and
then put on the shellac. This will also have the effect of making any
residual grain filler "disappear". My only concern is that oiling a dark
wood like walnut will only make it darker, perhaps quite a bit. I have
found that shellac solutions have about the right index of refraction to
hide grain filler so you might want to skip the oil all together. If it does
not seem to work, varnish definitely will so you will have to skip the
shellac and go right to varnish.
Make sure you try these things in an inconspicuous part of the table
before going all out.
The nice thing about shellac is that it dries really quickly so you can
get on with refinishing and not have wait for something like varnish to dry.
It is also easily removed, just wipe down a few times with alcohol, so if
you make a mistake, you can remove it.
I would not bother with an oil, varnish, thinner mixture. For a table,
straight varnish will build more quickly.
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