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Suggestions for AR-3a Cabinet Finish


jonwb

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Hi guys... Because of some pretty obvious scratches and paint residue, I opted to sand these with 320 grit sandpaper. I kinda regret doing that now because the original color has been jeopardized a bit. I can wipe them with denatured alcohol and they look good, however I'm worried that whatever I finish them with won't match the original color very well and I'll see it.  I've thought about using a close-matching stain but most posts I read recommend oil finishes.

Any suggestions here?

 

AR-3a Cabinets (1).jpg

AR-3a Cabinets (6).jpg

AR-3a Cabinets (4).jpg

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The most common original finish for walnut was BLO ("boiled linseed oil"). A lot of people like tung oil finishes or Watco Danish Oil, but either of those will produce a much glossier finish than original. If the solid wood face frames look close enough to the cabinet veneer when wetted down, you shouldn't need any stain.

ARs in walnut, cherry and other woods were also available finished with glossy clear lacquer. Much more difficult to apply.

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Thanks genek. Yeah I forgot to mention that I'm not interested in gloss finishes. Maybe a satin finish but nothing too obvious.

Once I commited to the sandpaper, I noticed that the dust was brown in color and I may have taken too much of the original finish during that process. The last pic showing the frame face (around the blue tape) kinda shows this.

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BLO will give you a matte finish. Just be sure it isn't a blended finish with varnish added, like Watco.

If the face frames are way off in color from the cabinet veneers you can mix up some diluted alcohol-based stain and do touchup. Best to dilute it a lot so it's very light and just keep doing it until the color builds up right.

 

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I have used MinWax stains and even Howards restore on more than a few cabs and came out nice. I then sprayed several coats of satin poly to finish.  I have done lacquer on several rare AR3's and one cherry cab but lots and lots of work and coats. 

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I did a test with non-tinted Danish oil on new walnut and the results are good. I plan to use it on my AR-90s which have been sanded and are awaiting other parts and veneer repair.  Danish oil is typically a blend of equal parts of a solvent (like turpentine), a varnish (like polyurethane), and an oil like linseed oil.  However any particular product will probably vary and may not reveal its specific contents.  Danish oil is somewhat thin and soaks into the wood quickly.  You can apply a second application after 15 minutes or so, wipe off the excess then give it a day to dry.  Then do 3 more applications, one per day.  You could sand with 400 at some point and use XXXX steel wool before the last application.  Then give it a few days to cure.  I did not get any noticable sheen until after 4 coats and polishing with a cloth.  That gave me a really pleasing, natural looking satin to semi-gloss finish that really makes the natural wood come alive without being showy.

I also experiemented with Odie's Oil, which has a lot of fans and it works well too.  It is a mix of oils and waxes and is like cold honey: really thick. You wipe it on, wait 15 minutes to a day, and rub it off.  It gave me a similar finish to Danish oil but with less shine.

A varnish or Danish oil will give you a harder, more durable finish than an oil/wax finish and that may be desireable.

Consider getting some test strips of wood and doing a test with a few products to see what might work.

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Using denatured alcohol along the frame face does show a slight but noticeable imbalance (see pic). I think I might be smart to mix in a little stain with the BLO.  I read that Minwax "Gunstock" comes close to the original color. Any thoughts?

Front corner.jpg

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One final note based on my testing:  4 coats of 'natural' Danish oil with a coat of Odie's Oil on top is fantastic with a deep, rich, super smooth finish but moves the finish into gloss territory which you said you wanted to avoid. 

This is a test strip I did last week with one coat of each product.  The darkness difference is minimal in real life, the camera lighting makes it hard to show the real look in a single photo.

Anyhow, something to consider if you want to test on other wood.  I got these small strips on Ebay for about $6 each.

1504662145_woodstaincomparison(1)(Small).jpg.be95d986023079e75578d9cbb7ad2ab3.jpg

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On a AR3/3a, the place you want to compare color is along the side of the face frame, where it mates with the cabinet veneer. If wetting this area down looks good, just leave it be.

image.jpeg

Any finish that uses a pigmented stain will obscure grain somewhat. If you want to avoid that, you need to use a dye stain. Dyes are my preference, because you can dilute them as much as needed to make very light washes you can apply in stages to get exactly the color you need. With a pigmented stain you can never make a wash lighter than the color of the pigment particles in the suspension.

At one time Watco made a matte finish Danish oil that was a pretty good visual match for BLO, but it's long since discontinued. If you want to use an oil/varnish blend, you can let it cure for a week or so and then take the gloss down to a satin with a scuff pad. Do that by hand, not with a power sander or buffer, and always rub in the direction of the grain.

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I'm in the process of restoring some AR5's that admittedly didn't need a lot of cabinet work. Sanded lightly with 220 and used the following:

2 applications of Clear Satin Osmo Hard Wax Oil followed by a coat of Gilboy's Rose Gold Wax

I've used this combination on a number of pieces of furniture and have never been disappointed. They are both easy to use and as non-toxic as you're going to find.

AR5_2.thumb.jpeg.c55e10d03efa7784babb29e5b0fa7796.jpegAR5_3.thumb.jpeg.c5303aca3628719a29f381e9f24ab7e7.jpegAR5_1.thumb.jpeg.633da487dcb91aebcca777b9b74b4421.jpeg 

AR5_4.jpeg

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5 hours ago, jonwb said:

Once I commited to the sandpaper, I noticed that the dust was brown in color and I may have taken too much of the original finish during that process. The last pic showing the frame face (around the blue tape) kinda shows this.

 

I was given some very beat up large Advents, did some repairs and did a lot of sanding thinking I'd just

apply a new finish.  I found the same thing, that sanding, even the first layer produced a lot of colored

dust.  What I found was that the front trim was not even close to the rest of the cabinet.  And the cabinet

had large color variations.  It seemed to me like there was a tinted clear coat and after doing some research

I found that this was common since the 1940s to even out the color and I'm quite sure that it is what Advent did.

I think that AR's used a better quality wood and perhaps this wasn't needed but it is something to keep in mind.

Certainly, if the owners manual says it is finished with BLO and that's what to use to freshen it up, then that's

what you should do.

Please keep us up to date since It might help with my effort.  These were almost ready for the dumpster so I

consider it a learning experience.  I'm considering trying a black dye/stain just to get the job done.

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When you sand wood that has been finished with penetrating oil, the dust will be colored even if the wood hasn't been stained, because there isn't a topcoat to sand through and you are removing wood from the start.

After you refinish the wood, it will be a different color compared to what it was before, because you have removed the patina (the color change that occurs in the outermost fibers due to years of exposure to air and light). Over time, light colored woods become darker, dark colored woods become lighter. Woods with reddish or yellowish undertones, like walnut, cherry, pine or teak become more strongly colored. The contrast between lighter heartwood and darker sapwood in the same piece of wood becomes stronger. If you want to even out these variations, you'll need to use stain even if the wood wasn't originally stained.

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Great info!

Genek... I'm favoring the current look and color of these in their sanded condition. The 54 year patina(ing) of these cabinets took on a "orangey" hue that I wasn't crazy about. Now their browner and duller in appearance. If I wanted to push for a browner hue (similar to WeakforTeak's cabs), would you still recommend BLO w/mixed stain for these?

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The color is a combination of wood patination and yellowing of the linseed oil finish. To get back to a "factory fresh" look, I would apply a light wash of a dye stain to even out color variations in the cabinet and face frame and then a clear finish (I prefer to stain first and then oil, rather than coloring the oil because it's easier to control the color). If you use linseed oil it will eventually yellow again in 20 years or so, or you could use tung oil, which doesn't tend to yellow.

These are the ones I like:

https://www.shellac.net/ngr_dye_color_list.html - Behlen Solar Lux "Van Dyke Brown" diluted 50/50 with the reducer

https://www.realmilkpaint.com/shop/oils/half-and-half/ - tung oil and citrus based solvent blend

I have not tried the Osmo product Weak4Teak recommends above, but the results do look good. 

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Sounds good. Dye stain in general looks like a great product to use. I'll probably go the Tung oil route over BLO too. I won't receive the Mohawk stain for a while but I'll post some pics when things start to take shape. Thanks!

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6 hours ago, jonwb said:

Very nice lakecat...

I have some nicks and edges that require a small amount of stainable wood filler. I thought about leaving them but they're too obvious. Is there a product that's recommended for this? 

Please do not use wood fillers before staining and protect coat....it will make it worse. Finish your cabs...then one coat of poly or whatever you use. There is plenty of colored wax wood pencils that will match your stain and can blend it in. Also if they are a little deep, I use Mohawk epoxy putty stick in walnut with great success. I smooth it with a razor blade. Then I finish cab with one or two more coats of poly or whatever finish you use. I have even used colored magic markers with fine tips to blend on cabs too give the grain look over the scratches.

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Second that. Wood filler never absorbs stain the same way as wood. Unless the damage is large enough and you have the skill to cut in actual pieces of real walnut, your best bet is to fill nicks after refinishing and then touch up the color.

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Watcos will not give a high gloss finish unless you apply 8-9-10 applications, which at that point additional applications are just sitting on top of the previous application. Then you will get a glossy finish. I apply 5 wiped on applications, which produces a very nice satin finish. I say 5 applications because this is when the veneer usually stops absorbing the oil. Result will look like waek4teak’s finish.

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