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pgf

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Reply with quote  #1 

When Steve was refinishing his portable 1857 Grover and Baker, he mentioned that he was using steel wool and Murphy's Oil Soap on the wood.  His results were spectacular.  The old finish went right away, and the wood beneath it glowed.  I think Steve said he used Howard's Feed 'n Wax for the final finish.   https://www.victoriansweatshop.com/post/show_single_post?pid=1307977403&postcount=53&forum=501752

So when I got my 1873-ish Home, and the treadle top and bonnet needed a complete redo, I decided to give the technique a try.  It worked well for me, too. (I used furniture oil as the final finish.)

Chaly asked for more info.  Here are some thoughts -- perhaps Steve will chime in and differ, or maybe offer his own thoughts.  I hope others will chime in too -- I'm no expert.

  • As always when refinishing, work on one surface or area at a time.
  • Remnants of previous finish will become more visible when the wood is dry. Wipe down frequently: you don't want to soak the glued joints, nor do you want the wood to swell.  (In fact, I'd think hard about using this technique on a veneered piece at all.)  Also, you don't want to leave the dirty slurry in place to dry.  I also rinsed with a wet, clean(er) rag, and I used a heat gun on low to mostly dry the wood and the joints quickly. 
  • The steel wool will disintegrate with use.  Rinsing with more soap solution helps get rid of the particles. A strong  vacuum, a brush, and a very strong magnet will help too.
  • Do the details first -- working on little corners and crevices and bumps with the steel wool will inevitably also clean some of the surrounding flat areas. Doing the details first, and the easy flat areas second, means those surrounding areas don't get scrubbed twice.
  • There may be concave corners that the steel wool won't get into. A small screwdriver with a very flat sharp blade can do some scraping in the corners. Be careful!
  • I feel like the steel wool left a "fuzzy" surface in some places. When the oil on my Home bonnet top is very dry, I may lightly use some very fine sandpaper to try and get a proper flat finish, and then re-oil.

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SteveH-VSS

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Reply with quote  #2 
Well written.

To clarify:  This process REMOVES the Shellac.

I would also add that there are stages of this that I use
  1. Murphy's with a soft cloth - SLOW and FAR less aggressive in the removal.  I have used this process to "freshen" the clearcoat with some success
  2. Murphy's with 0000 steel wool and GENTLE pressure - Works very well and is less aggressive with the wood
  3. Murphy's with 0000 Steel wool and hard pressure - This works FAST.  The steel wool loads up quickly, I use about 1/4 of a pad until it is loaded then toss it.
The clean up in between pads is important

The biggest danger is getting on a roll and over cleaning IMO, but if your plan is to refinish, this works VERY well.

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pgf

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks Steve -- good thoughts.  I'll bet if I'd been less aggressive, I wouldn't have the fuzziness I mentioned.

Patience is _not_ my middle name.

paul

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Chaly

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Reply with quote  #4 
Paul and Steve - many thanks for this information.  I appreciate the warnings to go slow.  

I'm wondering if those 3M green pads would do instead of the steel wool?  I've done refinishing with steel wool and it does leave it's trace behind- just thinking if there would be something as effective.

I'm thinking of using this method on my Singer 12 wood box case.  It's in pretty good shape really with a lovely patina but it could use a good sprucing up and if I could get it back to the wood with this method I think it would look lovely.

Thank you both!
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pgf

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Reply with quote  #5 
I'd be cautious using the 3M pads.  I seem to recall that they're pretty aggressive.  But I don't think I've ever tried one on wood.

#0000 steel wool is forgiving to work with, and the little bits do clean up -- you just have to remember to do it.  And unless you're refinishing a blonde cabinet of some sort, if, over time, there's a little fleck of brown rust in a crevice, it probably won't matter much.

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samiamaquilter

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Reply with quote  #6 
I find that going over a piece that I have used steel wool on with a strong magnet that I cover with a thin piece of fabric, removed a lot of steel wool. I also use a clean toothbrush in indented and carved pieces along with the magnet. The fabric over the magnet is for easy removal of the steel wool on the magnet because once there, it is hard to remove.

I would think that the "fuzziness" was due to too much water on the surface and you raised the grain. Really fine sandpaper will remove it. I used to intentionally raise the grain on pine in order to get a smoother finish in the end. It also seemed to make the stain I was using in its application, darker. I thought the water opened the pores of the wood and maybe it absorbed the stain more but that is just my thoughts. Nothing to back that up.

Sammie quilter in NC
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