Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Finishing Antique desk with burlwood veneer

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  • #143224
    Hugo Notti
    Participant

    In our family, we have an old desk from my grandfather, perhaps 100 years old. It has suffered a long storeage in a basement, the surface of the desktop is in a very poor state. This topic is actually the second part of my topic “repair of an antique desk” https://woodworkingmasterclasses.com/discussions/topic/repair-of-an-antique-desk/

    The first step was to repair a small area of the veneer. It had come lose and created bubbles. I used hot water to soften the veneer, made a few cuts with a sharp knife and then worked in some animal hide glue. I had a large scraper at hand, so I used put it onto the “repaired” area and used a heavy toolbox to keep it down. This was a bad idea, the metal reacted with some of the surface and turned it black, and it didn’t even keep down the veneer properly. So I used a flat wooden board instead and added more weight. Before putting the board on, I wiped the surface with hot water in order to remove as much glue as possible. The next day, a light tap with a hammer losened the board and the result was fine.

    I then went on preparing the surface for a fresh shellack polish. It was still coated, but I couldn’t see how to fix all the stains and scratches without removing that first. I tried a scraper, but it seemed too rough. On the edges, I sometimes cut into the wood, and it left scratches. I then removed the burr and scraped with a square edge only. This got me a very smooth and clean surface. It might have been more appropriate to use solvents, but I am happy with the result. I had to use stain to equalise the colour and the surface took that well, another proof, that my method worked. This evenening, I tried a first base coat of shellack, 1 part comercially premixed shellack plus 5 parts alcohol, on a part of the surface. I used a brush but quickly found out, why a pad is normally used. It will be interesting to see the difference to the next part, where I will use a pad (wool wrapped in a cotton cloth wrapped in a linen cloth). This is my very first project with shellack, so I have no idea, if I got it right, but it looks fine to me so far. No shine, but a smooth consistant surface.

    Some images attached.

    The first one shows the desktop half scraped (left side) and a small part stained. The stain was more subtle a few hours later. The surface looks worse than it was, it was smooth as silk.

    The second photo shows my larger test-staining. The knife was needed to help the camera focus correctly.

    The third photo shows more exactly, what I am working on.

    More soon…

    Dieter

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This topic was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
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    #143260
    aarontobul
    Participant

    It is looking very good so far, Dieter. I recently refinished the top of a dresser with nice quarter-sawn oak veneer and had a similar problem with my scrapers. I kept a burr rolled on the edges, but it used a file to round over the corners. That allowed me to take off the old shellac (only) without adding to the scratched in the top! The dresser was my first shellac experience also. I found that it took several (5-6) coats before the surface really started to shine. After 10-12 thin coats it is like glass now.

    #143469
    Hugo Notti
    Participant

    After some experiments, I think, I am on the right way now. It is – among other things that I might not completely be aware of – important to get the mix of shellack and alcohol right, and polishing oil really helps a lot! Unlike suggested often, I am using cotton wool as the internal base. Then a piece of a terry towel, and the outside is linen. It seems, that the terry towel keeps most of the alcohol. Even after a day in a closed jar, the towel still contains alcohol, while cotton and linen are dry. I wonder if it is a matter of different absorbtion capabilities. On the next project, I will definitely try lamb’s wool for the inside.

    At the moment, I have finished the fourth layer and most of the surface is pretty shiny already. There are small spaces that are a bit dull and they seem to absorb a lot of shellack. But they start to disappear slowly.

    I am quite happy with the stain, it is consistant enough.

    It is very difficult to take realistic photos of shiny surfaces. If you look carefully, you can see a few dull areas on the second one.

    I am really looking forward to having this job done. The desk is quite big and I can hardly move in my workshop. And I have to be careful when producing dust while working on anything else.

    Dieter

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Hugo Notti.
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    #143518
    Hugo Notti
    Participant

    I decided to give it a light sanding, with 1000 grit sandpaper. There were a few high spots, also caused by the not perfectly flat veneer (which I should have taken care of). Another polish followed and it looks much more even now, seems, that all areas have taken a similar amount of shellack. And where the shellack covered well before, it was a bit too glossy already, it felt kind of cheap. Now, the shine has a completely different appearance. It seems as if there is a difference between a cheap gloss and a precious (not silky) shine. Well, I would have laughed, if someone had told me this a week ago 😉 It is actually the difference between the two pictures of my last post, except, that it didn’t reall look like that, I cannot catch the real appearance. That is the reason, why there are no pictures today.

    I am not sure, what would happen to the surface, if I tried to repair the remaining high spots on the veneer. I imagine, it would be something horrible. And I have no idea, how easy or hard it is, to re-establish a shellack polish on smaller parts of a surface only. If someone knows, please tell me.

    Dieter

    #143602
    Hugo Notti
    Participant

    After a few more layers, I am quite happy with what I got now. The surface has an even shine, it appears as if I only need to remove the polishing oil. But when is a shellack finish really done? Can anyone tell me?

    Dieter

    #144062
    Hugo Notti
    Participant

    I tried to make more pictures, and they came out nicely, but there is no visible difference to the last ones. However, the shine is reduced a bit, after I treated it carefully with steel wool and a polish to remove the oil.

    Now I am interested to see, how this surface will survive the regular use. The last polish is two weeks ago, and the first time it is going to be used is next week only, so the shellack had plenty of time to harden. If I remember, I will report in a few months. And I won’t be too sad, if it wears off, because that will give me an opportunity to work on various defects of the veneer that I had ignored so far.

    By the way, next time I will use alcohol to remove the shellack. The scraper worked really well, but alcohol leaves no tool marks and removes exactly no wood at all. It also raises the grain (if that is possible after 100 years) and in combination with a bit of pumice on the first pads, this will create the perfect filler – at least, that is my understanding now. I do know, that you can remove shellack with alcohol easily, I did it on another project.

    Dieter

    PS: My piano tuner is a piano builder as well, and he uses shellack almost exclusively. Next time my piano needs tuning, I will ask him for his opinion.

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