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Re: Textured oak table

Posted By: Chris <nobis77@comcast.net> (pcp536345pcs.nash01.tn.comcast.net)
Date: 9/22/4 12:43

In Response To: Textured oak table (Martin Gonzalez)

Hello Martin and everybody,

I restore antiques mostly from the 17-1800's and so a big part of my job is finding a way to preserve just as much of the "texture" and "grooves" as possible. It sounds from all the talk of belt sanders and stripping like you want to just make the piece look young again, and if that's the case then grab the stripper and ever trusty can-o-minwax and nevermind anything that folows.

When I start work on old oak tables and other items that have gotten alot of wear but have been otherwise fairly well maintained (which from what you describe- intact patina/stain except on the high spots and corners- it "sounds" like you have) I start pulling out the gentlest abrasives and solvents and start experimenting. Almost always I can make a huge difference by really scouring it with 0000 steel wool. I start in a small area then swipe it lighty with a little alcohol on a cloth to get a beter idea of how it'll look when the finish is on, just enough to give it a quick wet look not enough to really soften most finishes.

If the steel wool does nothing then I try a quck scuffing with 320 or 220 grit sandpaper, then the alcohol swipe and so on.

If the sandpaper and hand scuffing doesn't do it or the sandpaper just clogs up with gunk then I put a little more alcohol on a rag and scour with that.

You've got lots of weapons and tactics at your disposal before you bring out the big guns: chemical stripper/ power sanders, try them first. These two are so powerfull that if you're not hyper careful you'll obliterate generations worth of venerable old patina. Try different things in a little area till you find the best way to get to the look your after.

If you do want it to look more flawless, flat, and new then don't skip the smaller random orbit sanders for the belt sanders. I've restored a few hundred really tough antiques over the years and every time I grab the belt sander I regret it. Chalk it up to clumsiness, inexperience with the stupid things, and being in an industry where a moment's imprecision turns a $20K piece into an eyesore that a very angry customer now just wants to leather with your hide. I use a circular random orbital with the built in vacuum holes. Here again I start with the 320 grit and only after I start gettin mad do I get down to 80 grit(which, believe me, can hog off some serious wood if there's a need). Find the best looking, cheapest/easiest, most efficient/least damageing tactic on a small spot first.

A few minutes of experimenting before a big step is taken is the sweetest and surest shortcut I've ever found, it doesn't always pay huge dividends( like finding a beautiful old polished gem under a thin but completely opaque layer of gook that I was asked to strip off) but it always gets your feet wet and starts you homing in on the easiest solution to an otherwise daunting task.

Favorite quick fixes: Heavy steel wool 0000 and pigmented wax polish (wipe wax on, let dry, buff off) Even heavier steelwooling, quick polish with shellac, then wax Steel wool oils and gook off, light hand sanding, french polishing, wax

Favorite materials: Synthetic steel wool (doesn't have oil patches and won't shred off as much) Water, Denatured alcohol and lots of clean cloths for wiping Shellac and lots of clean cloths (roll one up into a tight smooth egg shape, charge it with the shellac and start buffing it in {light quick passes, especially when your pad is wet, to lay on a thin, even film and let each pass dry before you swipe it again} Paste waxes and lots of clean cloths.

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