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Expert's Corner — bob

TIP: Refinishing and Value

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Many people are confused about whether or not to refinish old furniture whose finish is in bad shape. They don’t really like living with the furniture, but they’ve heard (usually directly or indirectly from the Antiques Roadshow) that refinishing destroys value, and they surely don’t want to do that. A finish serves two purposes. It protects the wood from contact with liquids, and it makes the wood look better, usually richer and deeper. The finish protects and decorates. Clearly the finish in the accompanying picture does neither. In almost all cases it should be removed and replaced with a new...

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TIP: Naphtha for Cleaning

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Naphtha, commonly sold as “V M & P Naphtha,” is better than mineral spirits (paint thinner) for cleaning oily and waxy surfaces, including crayon marks. Naphtha is a stronger solvent than mineral spirits but not so strong that it damages any finish other than wax as long as you don’t soak the surface. Naphtha also evaporates much more rapidly, which I find to be a more user-friendly quality. The downside of naphtha, compared with mineral spirits, is that it has a stronger odor. So it’s wise to arrange some air movement to remove the smell from the room or shop....

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TIP: Use Dye to Match New Parts

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TIP: Use Dye to Match New Parts

A common situation in furniture restoration is matching a newly made part to the color of the rest of the object. Water-soluble dyes are much more effective for doing this than commercial store-bought stains. The water-soluble dyes I’m referring to are those made by WD Lockwood. They are also sold by Woodworker’s Supply under the name Moser. Metalized dyes like those sold as NGR stains or Transtint aren’t nearly as effective because they are difficult to lighten. Trying to tweak the color usually results in it getting darker as the two colors blend and there’s no easy way to lighten...

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TERMS: The Difference Between Dyes and Pigments

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The difference between a dye and a pigment is that dye dissolves in a liquid and pigment doesn’t. Therefore, dye doesn’t settle in a can or jar, but pigment does and has to be stirred back into suspension before using. Dyes are available in powder and liquid form. If in powder form, you have to dissolve the dye in the appropriate liquid—usually water, alcohol or acetone. Instructions will tell you which. In liquid form, dyes are available concentrated (for you to thin), and already thinned with the appropriate liquid. What makes dyes and pigments confusing is that they can be...

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TIP: Removing Black Watermarks

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TIP: Removing Black Watermarks

There are two types of watermarks on furniture: white and black. White marks are in the finish and can usually be removed by rubbing with an abrasive. Black marks are stains in the wood and can usually be removed with oxalic acid, but only after the finish has been removed first. Oxalic acid is a type of bleach. It’s not the same as household bleach or two-part bleach (sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide), which is sold in separate containers. Household bleach will remove dye stain but not black watermarks. Two-part bleach will remove black water marks but also all the natural color from the wood, which you rarely want to do. The accompanying before-and-after...

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