Here is what I would do, you can try it on a radio you don’t love too much first, but i have had good success with it.
mix a 1:1:1 ratio of turpentine,clear( natural) danish oil, and vinegar.
shake the solution before each time you use it and don’t worry that the vinegar doesn’t really unite with the other ingredients. it’s only in there for cleaning, you don’t want dirt in the finish.
The danish oil does dry and it will be accepted into the wood, that is anywhere there is a scratch, or chip in the lacquer “shell”
the turpentine helps thin the mix and helps the danish oil to penetrate better.
take a small piece of cotton cloth and wet it with t he mix and rub it vigorously into the finish, don’t get it on the grillcloth, plastics, etc.
take a clean cotton cloth and wipe every bit off that you are able to, buff it down good, you’ll remove pretty much anything on the lacquer, it won’t really soak into lacquer.it will go into those whitish scratches that are so apparent and it will hide them.
don’t let the solution pool too long if you don’t wipe it all off you will have a sticky mess, but it can dwell on the surface while you are working on it. if by chance the radio is sticky the day after allow more time or use a bit more turpentine and a bit less danish oil and do it again. two or three aplications of this would bring up a finish on even an unfinished radio, but that sort of finish is not really appropriate because most radios were lacquer except some early ones which were shellac.
You can experiment with this on one of the old broken brown Bakelite radios that you have only half the parts to. I have had good luck with bringing that shine back to Bakelite radios that have gone dull as well.
If, later you want to strip the lacquer and refinish that way you still can , and arguably this is less destructive than a complete refinish.
There is another way, you can look into a product called “Rapid Pad® Padding Finish” as well as “Amalgamator and Amalgamator Solvent” – see
When lacquer is re-sprayed the underlying layers do re-melt, it is possible to respray a radio without stripping. with experience it is possible, but it is also possible to make a mess by burying a layer of years of dirt or “patina” between layers of lacquer so your results with this may vary with experience.
I like the first method because it is quick, easy , and works well. It won’t do miracles but it usually makes a set look much more presentable. If you refinish , losing the labels for volume, tone etc can be problematic so with this method you can retain those too.
If you get danish oil on the grill cloth it won’t come out, so be careful about drips.
If you don’t already own a can of clear danish oil you could also experiment by substituting boiled linseed oil or perhaps Tung oil. I wouldn’t introduce any of the colored oils though.