Gerry O’Hara

Consider buying ‘Weekend Refinisher’ by Bruce Johnson (https://www.amazon.com/Weekend-Refinishe … 034535866X). Also, if you search the web you will find many helpful articles.

Typically, pre-WWII wood cabinets were finished with a spray-on lacquer, the colour being added to the lacquer before applying. Post WWII cabinets may still be lacquered, but more likely finished in a varnish (especially 1950’s onwards). Lacquer, although generally not as robust as varnish, is quite forgiving and can be repaired (techniques for this are in the above). My advice is that for a cabinet that is only showing slight wear, I would recommend trying to enhance the existing finish by cleaning, touching-up and polishing (ie. restoration, rather than re-finishing). If only the top of a cabinet is the problem, eg. where a plant has been placed and watered), consider refinishing only the cabinet top. Only strip the old finish as a ‘last resort’ – unfortunately many cabinets are in such a state that this may be the only option.

If you decide to do undertake a complete re-finish, consider scraping the old finish off rather than using a chemical stripper, reserving the latter for the ‘awkward bits’. When down to bare wood and repairing any gouges etc. with epoxy filler/putty, sand with 600 grade paper and then fill in the grain using either products for this purpose or several coats of shellac, smoothing out between coats with 0000 steel wool, lubricated with lemon oil. Wipe dry and leave for a couple of days before lacquering to your liking – cans of spray lacquer can be used but is generally not too good. A proper spray gun and controlled temperature conditions give the best finish. You may be able to set something suitable up at home – needs to be warm and dry, preferably with filtered air to prevent minute bits of dust landing on the wet lacquer. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have access to a ‘professional’ spray booth, then avail yourself if you can access (eg. the SPARC museum at Coquitlam near me has such a spray booth that members can use or in which members can finish your cabinet for a donation – this is where I spray my cabinets. Very helpful folks there too – thanks Pat!).

Very important – before you start, remember to take some ‘before’ photos – these record any subtle trim detail as well as something to compare the finished radio with later for bragging rights etc. You can mask-off areas that may need to be highlighted/accented with darker tones.

There are some examples of radios in my collection finished using the above method posted on this forum (eg. Marconi, Silvertone, Sparton).