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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Refinishing a Bedroom Set

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Hello Greg,
We are planning to refinish a recently acquired mahogany bedroom set. We were told by its previous owners that the set had been already refinished about 40 years ago. At that time only linseed oil had been applied, no stain, no shellac or anything else. Over the years the owners only treated it again with linseed oil now and then.
We would normally use a stripper first, but are wondering if in this case you would find this step necessary or advisable? The wood is very dry, perhaps has not been oiled for many years.
We are thinking of staining the wood with probably minwax mahogany stain, then apply Tried and True Varnish oil.
The only concern we have has to do with the fact that we have noticed in the past that when wiping off the Tried and True, a lot of the stain comes off with it. So, if we don't strip the wood, would there be some linseed oil in deeper layers preventing the stain from penetrating ? We want some of the stain to stay, as we don't care for the aged pale yellowish mahogany look.
Looking forward to your thoughts on this!

Answer
Hi Doris, I would strip them. It will just eliminate a lot of headaches during the process, and yes, as you've surmised, the old linseed oil will inhibit any attempts at staining because it soaks into the wood and seals the pores. The Tried and True is also a penetrating finish, and if you use a stain that seals as well, like the Minwax, ...it will affect the Tried and True's ability to penetrate as well.I do not like, nor recommend Minwax stain...it has many undesirable attributes, and the color strength is horrible as compared to several other stains on the market. It is the easiest to find due to their aggressive market share, but it is not the best, by far. I also hesitate to finish a veneered piece like that in the picture, with something like Tried and True. It really offers very little protection, and almost no depth or character on such a piece...but it is generally a decent product. If you want to use a penetrating oil finish, I would use a waterborne dye stain, which does not seal the wood pores nearly as much, if you want that deep mahogany color. Be warned that using Dye stains takes some learning, as they are unforgiving if you make an error, and they are different to use then the typical oil, pigmented stains...but they are one of the Pro's little secrets for color strength and clarity, as they will not "muddy" a finish, no matter how dark the stain.You likely will have to custom mix two colors to get a reddish Mahogany, as they don't offer an actual "Mahogany" color...but they are readily intermixable, and I would also tell you to NOT thin with water, buy the proper thinner. Just because they're "waterborne" does not mean they can be thinned with water. They are often used in conjunction with a pigmented stain as well. I like the General products, they make a much more professional grade product, and they have several great ones like the dye stains,Oil pigmented stains, Arm-r-Seal, General Gel stains, (a pigmented stain with a urethane binder), and the wipe on Gel Urethane varnish (one of the easiest and best), to name a few. Also I would look at the WaterLox product if you want the oil finish. It has a beautiful deep amber color that's great on Cherry, Walnut, and Mahoganies...and exhibits a lot of the properties of the Tried and True. However, more coats can be applied to give the finish some depth, and superior protection. It is a modified Tung oil finish, and while it does have more odor when applying and during cure, it is considered non toxic when thoroughly cured as well, and in my opinion is a better product.The yellowish cast on Mahogany is caused by UV light, and in my experience one usually has to strip and sand to completely rid that bleaching from the Mahogany..some experimentation will be necessary to see what works best for you...but I would highly recommend chemical stripping thoroughly as a first step, even though it's a pain.Hope I haven't overwhelmed you, there are a lot of ways to get where you want to go, but not without a fair amount of labor, no matter which way you choose, and the final "look" can differ vastly, depending on the route you take. Here are some links to look at, please feel free to post back.
Regards, Greg

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/148606/general-finishes-water-based-dye-medium-

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/150778/general-finishes-water-based-dye-vintage

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/826963/general-finishes-brown-mahogany-gel-stai

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/813461/general-finishes-mahogany-oil-stain-quar

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/85F07/arm-r-seal-top-coat-semigloss-quart.aspx

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/153508/waterlox-original-sealer-finish-350-voc-

http://waterlox.com/ (- The Home website for WaterLox Lots of good info and a great website.)

http://www.woodcraft.com/product/826989/general-finishes-clear-satin-topcoat-gel

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Greg Scholl

Expertise

Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects, Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings, wood species recognition and usage,tool recommendations, blade types and recommendation,techniques and methods for many Woodworking related issues, etc.

Experience

Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.) Sold, built, serviced, setup Home, Industrial, and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools , provided knowledge, parts replacement, service, and on site service, Trade show Demo, and training as well.

Publications
Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002) ...("27 year compilation of expert know-how")

Education/Credentials
Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars from major Tool manufacturers, Skil/Bosch, Delta, Powermatic, Ritter, Porter cable, Milwaukee, Dewalt/B&Decker, Performax.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT. (the Antiques capital of CT.), Golden Age of Trucking Museum,Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies. For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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