radio collectors hate polyurathane, sometimes people put it on radios and refinishers hate it. but one thing I would say is that with the oil based polyurathane like I used on my floors it is a sort of yellow finish and it allows the wood to darken. I want that effect in my antique floors and the original finish would be shellac, but poly is hard wearing. after my refinishing and over the next few years the wood darkens from sunlight or UV
now a lot of commercial floor finishers and modern wood finishers are starting to use water based polyurathane. it is a tough finish like the oil based poly and again I wouldn’t recommend it on any radio.. but the water based finishes can have UV blockers and they don’t yellow the finish. so some who have light colored floors and want them light use water based so they don’t darken. because they don’t want them darkened. people like floor finishers and modern cabinetmakers are hapy not to have the smell and the chemicals aren’t as bad for you.. they need to worry about workplace health standards and those finishes are gaining popularity in that world. oil based house paint is on it’s way out , hard to get for interior. no one uses it,
I would not use water based on anything collectable but maybe somethign like a 70’s radio phono where you want to put coffee cups and dont;care about collectability or the future of the radio,, but I’d say any poly is not what you want on anything collectable. it will ruin the value to other collectors.
if you refinish raw wood and sand it , then if you wet it with a damp cloth that raises the grain and you can then do a light sanding to knock it back. this lets the fibers go where they want to so they dont raise later. this is good practice. with shellac or lacquer or oil based poly or an oil finish, they dont have water so they don’t really raise the grain anyway. but if you do a water based finish this technique of pre raising the grain is more important because your first coat will raise the grain as soon as it gets wet with the water based poly.
on my house parts, they are all fir. I always use danish oil then if I want i just do a dainish oil finish or if I want it hard wearing like floors I use poly. one of the reasons I use the oil is because it pops the grain and this sort of finish has depth. much like french polish it shows the ribbon. when you walk by the finish it”moves” much like a hollagram. the poly is like a protective coating or shell. lacquer is much like a shell too. I havent’ tried putting oil down first on radios. I always thought it was bad practice but maybe it can help pop the grain and might look ok on top of veneer with a coat of lacquer over that. if you just put lacquer it will pop the grain somewhat but the oil pops it more.. there is a “gotcha” in doing this , those areas where you marked it , bumped it didnt’ sand too well , the oil will pop thise too and make them even more noticible so this is a trade off.
if you wan to darken radios I htink the best way is to add the toner to your lacquer, toner in itself is very hard to apply without blotching. one drop from the spray tip and you are starting again if you just use toner by itself. If you are spraying with spray cans you can’t mix it but you can do a pass or three of clear and then a quick ectremely light careful light coat of tomer ( mohawk sells spray lacquer based toners) this way the toner intermixes.
I don’t believe in using stains on radios because they didnt’ in the factories and it is impossible to remove stain from wood. maybe there are some applications where you would want to but I cringe when people stain radios. on thing to keep in mind though that if you are putting a shell over your wood , or any kind of pigmented topcoat while you are darkining it you are also “muddying the grain” so that shimmery effect that looks like a hollogram will get buried, the light needs to pass through the pigments twice before they get to your eye. I’m not saying don’t use pigmented topcoats just be aware that they do block the beauty of the wood.. it still may be original , a lot of radios seem to have a heavy toner laquer that they used in the factories, some cathedrals and such are very dark some darker near the front and things,, they were after that effect.
often radios feature very darkened woods, but they didn’t use stains they used really heavy toners. You can refinish those dark areas with straight spray toner from Mohawk, American walnut is one and I think “extra dark walnut” this allows some of the grain to peek through even though it is pretty much blocked, sometimes people think they can use paint which blocks the grain out completely. sometimes radio makers used this technique to hide the lighter woods they used in cabinets or sometimes they did it over the other areas for contrast in the design.
a lot of info in those couple of posts. I dont refinish stuff as a job and other finishers may have a lot more experience and feel free to give your opinions and do what you like of don’t agree with .. .. I have just practiced a bit and read a bit and a lot is to do with house restoration techniques and I find overlap.
some of it is observations I have made and everyone has different products and techniques they like,, so I’m not trying to say “im right” but I m only trying to pass on some of what I learned through my experiences. things like how the finishes combine with underlying coats can be learned before attempting to use these products. much of it is practice. personally I’d rather do my best on a few and have them be a labor of love, and pass other unrestored sets on than to try to refinish a whole bunch and not be happy with any of them.. I haven’t been doing a lot with my radios and focusing more on my house that’s why Im thinking of pairing down a little..Ive got quite a few that are projects int he waiting and if I keep the ones I can’t bear to part with easily then Ill still have enough to keep busy. maybe part of what the CVRS aims to do is to preserve stuff for the future so I have no qualms about sitting on somethign for 20 years and passing it on the way I got it to be restored by a future collector. Ive had some of the best fun with really rough barn finds that weren’t valuable or particularily collectable. \its a fun hobby , for me I found it to be a great challenge and the ones I have restored give me a sense of accomplishment.. Youd have to move faster than I can to make any profit.
I think some radios deserve a full refinish because they just need it because they are too damaged, now some can restore the original finish and that’s more complicated. others might have really good techniques to save finishes and with it the original lettering labels for tone volume and things like that. Ive seen attempts at re-spraying that imbedded dirt and were a bit of a mess. I think there is a lot to learn about restoring finishes and it is a pretty deep subject unto itself.