Hi Sterling: I completely strip the old finish off the cabinet. I am attaching a link from the Antique Radio forum which I use as a guideline.
I don’t us a grain filler on most of my radios, just the ones that are higher end. I strip the cabinet making sure ALL the old finish is gone.
I then wipe it down with gas line antifreeze[ methyl hydrate]. I stain the whole cabinet with dark walnut or extra dark walnut stain.
I leave it at least overnight ,then wipe it down, to get any of the stain that didn’t soak in.
Then using the mixture of shellac [as stated in the link] I brush it on. It dries in two minutes.
Next I mask off the areas I want to use the toner on and these are usually the bottom and around the top. Although each radio will
be a little different. It may have pillars in front of the grill cloth , and if you want them dark, then you have to mask of that area.
You MUST I repeat MUST have the can of lacquer shaken up very well. shaking it by hand just won’t mix it enough.
I use plastic ties and attach the can to a orbital sander at both ends of the can. Then run the sander for about two minutes.
That seems to work well. The nice thing about the toned lacquer is if you don’t like the color or it was too dark, you can use lacquer thinner
to remove it.
After the masking is remover you are ready for the final coats.
Your final coats can be high gloss or satin. i usually use high gloss for the first coal and if I like the sheen then i can use high gloss, and if i don’t like it I can use satin for the final coats.. I usually put at least three coats on, because each coat [using a can ] is thin.
Don’t put on heave coats as it will run.
Here is a photo of one ready for the toner.