Beauty is inherent part of vintage machines. Exposure to elements, use and abuse masks beauty, but it is there, under the skin. Finding beauty is motivation and surprise.
Original laquer finish has porosity, it absorbs moisture and oils, over time, resulting in opacity. Depending on elements the opacity varies in color from yellow, orange, green, and dark brown. The colors are the ones in top coat, not the stain and wood below. The texture can be rough. By removing the top coat, matching back bleached wood, refinishing, the stored beauty returns.
Restoring finish is best done after wood repairs. This post involves sanding, staining if necessary, and applying finish. Success in restoration is measured by, how results meet expectations. Expectation may include visual aspects, and texture feel. Expectations are a guide. If the process gives desired results, success!
The methods outlined below work for me, so will do my best to share. Removing or just thinning the top coat is achieved using mechanical, chemical or a combination. The first picture shows items used for the process. How the items are used is important. The main objective is to remove some or all topcoat, without disturbance of stain, and wood.
Hardware should be removed, stored in zip lock bags, prior to work. Paper shims are often found under hinges. Shims are used to set hinge tops flush. Shims are loose, can be glued in place with clear school. Hardware often needs straitening, cleaning and lubrication. Good tasks, while finish dries.
Topcoat removal methods vary by part. Parts with carved embelishments often started by using paper towels wet with 91% isopropyl alcohol. Best to use nitrile gloves for hand protection. Alcohol softens lacquer, rubbing with paper towel removes it slowly. Alcohol, lacquer, paper towels are all flamable, use necessary safety procedures. Removal process is slow sticky, and messy, but with observation while working, grime and topcoat is removed in a controlled way. Paper towel fill with yellow brown, start again with new, wet with alcohol. When damp with alcohol, the look, will be similar in color to finished part. Stop when desired look is perceived, or the stain level is met. When working wih multiple drawers work to keep looks uniform. Some light sanding, scraping and brushing may be necessary prior to finish.
Larger flat parts including tops, extension leaves, and sides are sanded. Sanding starts with 80 grit paper, very light pressure. It sounds crazy coarse, it however works. Very light pressure, only enough to scratch finish. Sanding wood and very thin layer of stain are avoided. Sand with the grain. Observation of sanding in progress steers the work done by your fingers and hand. Use a microfiber towel to clear dust, for improved visiblity. Sanding is done in well lit area, preferably outdoors, with towel in lap. Original finish varies in thickness, accomodate for that. Sanding is a feedback sport, not just motion, motion and repetition are dictated by visual results. Paint thinner commonly mineral spirits may be applied to view "wet" appearance. The temporary wet view, provides a for judge of look with finish. Residual topcoat streaks may be visible, work more on those to achieve desired clarity.
Scraping pocket knife or dental tools is method to remove topcoat from crevices. An example is side to bottom trim of a bentwood case. It takes a careful hand, and proper tool orientation for proper scraping without wood damage. Work is done in multiple strokes, with just enough pressure for scrape. Repeat as necessary.
Once sanding and scraping complete, next use 220 sanding sponge, followed by scotch-brite green pad. The sanding for there is minimal, it should only take few strokes for each. Use paint thinner method to verify clarity.
Staining may be optional, light stain helps with continuity. I use Minwax oil based stains, they are compatible with the original water based stains used by Singer. Original stained areas are often less absorbent of stain. Bleached areas, resulting from wear, and spill often absorb stain easily. First wipe all parts with microfiber towel to remove dust. Arrange parts together, it is easier to judge appearance in correct orientation, same light condition. Stain is applied by using a nylon panty hose pad, sparingly over surfaces, and wiped within a few minutes, see how it looks. Typically all is good. If areas standout as too weak in comparison, lightly touch up, and wipe off. What is seen at this stage is simolar to final look, less the surface texture and depth resulting from topcoat.
There are more details of staining, typically perimeter of tops and leaves are stained darker than top. I use dark walnut stain on the edges. Take care not to get the darker stain on top if lighter stain used there. It is easier to darken than to lighten, for that reason try light first. Dry stain application overnight.
Applying topcoat of Minwax polyurethane clear satin is easy. New Dollar Tree nylon panty hose, 6" leg part rolled in layers is great applicator. One use, but about 5 applicators per $. It is lint free, absorbent, yet easily releases uniform thickness on wipe. Best application is temperatures 70F and above. At lower temperatures, the polyurethane gels, slightly sticky, resulting in thick application and potential runs. Application should go on thin and clear, no bubbles. If bubbles form, reduce wipe speed. Go one direction, overlap slightly. Re-wet applicator as necessary, typically after one to two strokes on large parts. Applying at teperatures of 80F, first stokes may appear dull, leave them be, they are already stating to cure. Application from far side to near helps view, and avoid contact of finish. When applying on new open grain woods, applying perpendicular to grain first coat, helps fill grain. It takes 3 to 4 coats to get nice even surface. Coats are done 3 or more hours apart when humidy is controlled to 40%. Before all coats surfaces rubbed with Scotch-brite, then microfiber to clear dust. The Scotch-brite work is quick, takes off embeded dust, aids adhesion. First and second coats may have slightly rough spots, where finish absorbs in stressed wood.
Microfiber towels need to be clean, for optimal results. They launder well, but usually pre-wash, and run load by itself with other work towels/clothes.
The final coat should turn out well, with out need for Scotch-brite, polish or waxing.
When doing multiple projects, opening round, dipping fromantic can, leads to degration of Minwax at about 1/2 can. Rectangular can with pop-top costs more, but find the whole container can be used. It is convenient, and better for environment, not having to dispose of slightly gelled finish.
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Dave in middle TN