Len, just my 0.02, so remember what you paid for it when you read this post
When I refinish or match colors/stains/tints, I don't necessarily try to ma
tch the existing type of finish. What....????????
It's almost irrelevant on a finish as old as the one you are talking about.
First, the applied finish REGARDLESS of what it is has deteriorated a gre
at deal. It may not look it to you, but trust me on that. Second, applying
"the same" finish may not be the same at all. It may look like poly, but
could actually be a high grade varnish. Third, regional preferences come i
Around here, no one used shellac for anything but sanding sealer... unless
they were finishing knotty pine paneling. You can see that amber glow a mi
le away, which comes with age.
No one used poly around here as poly of 40 years or so ago just didn't beha
ve well under all circumstances. Enter a high quality varnish for our are.
It was brushed, sprayed and rolled over raw wood, stained wood, tinted wo
od, even over distressed wood. Tried, true, reliable in its results, it wa
s the clear finish champ >> around here <<.
Around here (again, not speaking for everyone) the finishers used to spray
a light coat of stain on wood, then brush finish. Spraying the stain gave
a 100% even coloring on oak which is almost impossible when wiping or brush
ing. The light coat of stain sat on the wood, then a couple of spray coats
of varnish finished it up.
The less sophisticated finishers would brush on tinted varnish, then seal i
t with a clear top coat of varnish. Then the beginning group would apply w
ipe on stain to miles of trim wasting hours and hours workman time, 3X the
coloring material, and the end product was rarely uniform.
If it were me in your shoes, I would test with the highest percent of alcoh
ol I could get my hands on (drugstore stuff probably won't work) to see if
the finish is shellac. If it is, sand it lightly with 220gr to break the s
urface (remember not to go through your color layer!)then clean it with min
eral spirits to remove dirt and gunk, allow it to dry for a day, then put p
oly on it. Two coats.
If it is not shellac, find a corner of the room where the couch sits and sa
nd lightly with 220gr, clean with mineral spirits, apply a test coat of pol
y, wait as directed and apply a second coat. Wait a week and see if it pee
ls or chips off easily. If not, you are set.
As far as matching color, back in those days we used to use this awful colo
r called "Golden Oak". Everyone had it... it is probably what you are look
ing at on your trims. Find that and try it out to see how close it is when
dry. Remember, you can always thin it down to reduce the amount of color
you are applying.
Good luck... let us know what you did and how it turns out.