Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/templeton furnitur

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Question
Greg, I have a 5 drawer maple chest and matching 8 drawer bureau with removable mirror. There is a plate in the drawer that says Templeton Brattleboro Vermont. It was my parents bedroom set from probably 1950. In another drawer it says Hard Rock Maple. I just love it. My question is what should I do to clean it. Both my parents were smokers. They are now gone and I don't want to use anything to harm the finish.
Thank you so much for your help

Answer
Hi Gail, this is most likely a lacquer finish, so there are many products available like the General:

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/general-finishes-furniture-cleaner

But just plain mineral spirits (paint thinner), and a white Scotchbrite pad (or 0000 steel wool used carefully with the grain), is equal to, or better to remove dirt, grime and tobacco residue without harming the finish. Use a lot of clean rags to dry the slurry off as you work with the saturated cleaning pad, in sections over the whole piece. Then do a final wipedown of the whole piece with a clean rag, wet with the mineral spirits, again and hand dry. The General product, and most others, use a mineral spirits with fragrance additives, to do the same job, but cost quite a bit more per ounce. There are Citrus based cleaners as well, like:

https://www.woodcraft.com/products/general-finishes-orange-oil-pint

but in my experience, these do not cut the tar from tobacco residue as well as the mineral spirits, and mineral spirits will not harm a cured lacquer finish in good condition.
After the thorough cleaning, apply a good wax with NO Silicones (NOT PLEDGE!!!), paste waxes are best, but the most labor intensive too...or an oil polish like the Guardsman or Weiman's, and you should be left with a smooth, clean surface. If you're not happy with the resulting appearance, then perhaps the finish is at it's life's end, and you might need to call in a Pro.
Let me know how it goes.
Regards, Greg

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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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