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xtal_01

How to match the finish of an old wooden item

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Hello all!

I have collected a few old wall crank phones.

I have one with a problem ... the bottom piece on the shelf is missing.

No big problem ... just a single piece of wood ... stops things from sliding off.

Now the bigger problem ... how to make it look old and match the rest of the phone!

The phone was made in the 20's and I don't want to refinish it ... just get the new piece to match.

Any suggestions?

I have included a picture of the phone missing he part and one with it.

Thanks .... Mike

NE_phone_01.JPG

NE_phone_02.JPG

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The first step is to get wood that is the same or similar to what's on there.  While you might get red oak to match the tone of maple, they are never going to look the same because they have different grain patterns.

 

The second step is what are you going to do with the old parts?   They appear to be dusty, worn, or aged (or some combination.)   Are you going to try to clean or refresh them?  http://www.woodcentral.com/bparticles/save_finish.shtml

 

There is no magic answer to the third part other than experience (what does what to what wood), a bit of color theory (what do I do if it's too red, or too orange) and some trial runs on the same wood with the same colorants and the same (new) finish.  If you don't experiment on scrap, your project will be the experiment.  Remember that the top coat will most certainly alter the color in some way.

 

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.   There are myriad ways to adjust the color mid-flight -- multiple layers of different stains (dyes, pigment stains, gel stains, dirty wipe, clean wipe, etc.), toners (finish with color added), glazes (heavily pigmented layers between coats of finish (that can effect aging, dirt, and wear and tear)), smearing on pigments to uncured coats, or added to wipe on finishes such as a padding shellac, or some combination of all the above.

 

You might have some luck taking the piece to a place that will try their best to custom blend a stain, e.g., Sherwin-Williams stores, but that may not be the final solution.

 

Try to stay true to the original top coat of finish (which will NOT be polyurethane), but most likely shellac or lacquer for that time period.

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14 hours ago, lew said:

I'll bet our resident finishing expert @kmealy will be along shortly with the answer. Those are some cool old phones. Bet you could really confuse today's youngsters by asking them to use it for texts :D

I have a friend that keeps a dial land-line phone in his living room, he says his grandkids always get a kick out of using it.

Last year, we watched a Netflix series based in Australia in the 1920s.  Even for me it was a bit of a culture shock (and I just got my first smart phone in November, retiring my 12 year old flip phone).  The phone would ring, someone (usually the butler) would answer to the the request, "Is Miss Fisher there?"  No personal phone, no caller id, no voicemail, no idea of where anyone could be reached, nothing you can take with you anywhere.  And don't get me started about "party lines."

When I was growing up, my parents belonged to a Farm Bureau council (met in farmers homes, mostly social), and many of them had crank phones on the wall like this.   Eventually, they got modern "dial" phones, but were allowed to purchase their old phone as a decorative item.

 

Edited by kmealy

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I am still new to this hobby.  I have learned there were many many makers of phones back then.  Each maker did things just a bit different.  Some were just painted metal ... some brass  ... some plated with nickle ... some chrome. 

 

These are actually the last ones made  ... all from the late 20's.  By then they were pretty common.  The earlier ones are much fancier.

 

Both of these have "three bar" magnetos.  Two others I own have "five bar" magnetos.

 

When I first wired these two together, I got frustrated ... bells rang but now sound!  It was not till a few days later I found a guy who told me they had to stand up to work.  There is loose carbon between plates in the transmitter that won't touch both plates if they are not standing up.

 

All kinds of little things people have forgotten to make old items work.

 

As a history buff, I enjoy tracing down the history ... 

 

Like I said, I still need to make some reproduction batteries for them.  They use two or three 1 1/2 volt #6 batteries.  I used these same batteries as a kid to start my model airplanes.  Years ago a gentleman scanned about 5 different labels.  If you take a plastic tube and wrap it with a label (put a few D cells inside) they look pretty good.

 

So question for you guys .... how can one wood from another?  I know the case is a hard wood.  No red hue so not red oak.  Maybe white oak or maple?

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Mike, interesting stories - thanks for sharing with us.

You have shown us three phones.  The first one with the piece missing, can't tell for sure because of the finish on it.

Of the other two phones, the grain pattern on the left one looks very much like oak, red or white.  Made in the 1920's it may very well be some white oak.

The one on the right may be oak also, it appears that the shelf on this one has a different finish, like the first phone.  It might be that this shelf broke off and was replaced at one time.

The more I look at it, the more the one on the right looks like a frankenstein model...

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Tip on oak is you CANNOT tell by looking. Some white has red in it and some red have white in it, The only way to tell is cut a section and blow thru it into water if the water bubble is red, Red has open pore structure. Looking at the curl in the right one probably White oak and the straight grain on left front "may" be white but that shelf probably is due to the grain having an unusual structure. The right shelf is anybody's guess from that pic.

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I think the phone on the left is oak and the one on the right side is birch or possibly maple which both woods in different parts of a tree will closely look the same as they are closed grain where the one on the left is an open grain wood. What ever stain or color you choose will be wrong so thin it down like one part color and 10 parts thinner...its better to sneak up on a color to match and this way you can add a little stain to what you are using a few times with out going too dark to begin with and then you are in trouble... But hey this is an old piece and not near the color it started with so just get close and there is no need to start stripping any finish off so let it stay an antique. 

 I have a couple of old clocks about the same age as those but one is a coin operated model.

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Oak is the only wood I can tell from a mile away...….and it will have more long weather cracks than any other wood grown in the USA. If all the wood grown in the USA was say 200 years old and all was kept in the same environment all those years then the oak will have more weather cracks than all the other woods put together....  that's including all 400 types of oak that happens to be grown here.....well maybe not that many but you get the drift....

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Thanks so much for all the help!

 

I got another picture for the seller ... it has some issues and we are dickering on price ... you can even see the break out from ??? coming through the batter area/

 

I think the inside of the cover may be unfinished.

 

This might help identify what kind of wood it was made of.

 

Thanks!!!!!!!!!!

 

Mike

 

NE_06.JPG

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Quarter sawn white oak; the cross-grain lines are called "medullary rays" and in a tree they are radial (from the center out).   Red oak also has them, but they are smaller.  Gerald is correct, white oak has what are called toluloses in the pores that prevent things from going through.  Red oak does not and you can blow on one end of the piece and put the other end in a bucket and see bubbles.   That is why wine and bourbon barrels are made from white oak and not from red.  If from red, the liquid would all leak out.   Frank Miller Lumber is near me and is one of the largest quarter-sawn oak mills in the USA, if not the world.   https://frankmiller.com/



But for your little missing piece, it may not be all that obvious.

 

I saw a blog this morning that talked about "changing the color without stripping."    It used Polyshades.   IMO, this is a terrible terrible terrible product and the main reason it was used was that Minwax is a sponsor.   Even though the guy was a former furniture restoration shop owner, the stuff looked terrible and just like HGTV, never showed any closeups of the finished product.

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WOW ... learned a lot about wood!

 

I would hope I can find a few small pieces of white oak around me somewhere.

 

I will make the missing part from one and then use the others for testing the finish.

 

So two questions ....

 

1) to get the color right (and I only have a few cans of Minwax stains on hand) ... what should I buy?  Do I go out an buy a few cans of stain?  You guys mentioned dyes?

 

2) I read the article on saving a finish.  I had guessed this would have had a finish coat of shellac on it.  Is there a chance it could have been varnish?   I can try the test they talk about.

 

The phone looks like it has a dull finish ... I am sure it is just age.  Do they make a matte finish shellac?  I just checked checked Home Depot.  When I search shellac, it brings up gloss and semi gloss lacquer ... is that the same thing?  I am guessing it is not.

 

I search varnish on the HD site ... lots of strippers came up ... only one I see is Spar Varnish (available only by the case), a varnish topcoat at $82 a gallon and some kind of echo friendly varnish (betting it is not real varnish).

 

 

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On 2/9/2020 at 12:23 PM, xtal_01 said:

WOW ... learned a lot about wood!

 

I would hope I can find a few small pieces of white oak around me somewhere.

 

I will make the missing part from one and then use the others for testing the finish.

 

So two questions ....

 

1) to get the color right (and I only have a few cans of Minwax stains on hand) ... what should I buy?  Do I go out an buy a few cans of stain?  You guys mentioned dyes?

 

2) I read the article on saving a finish.  I had guessed this would have had a finish coat of shellac on it.  Is there a chance it could have been varnish?   I can try the test they talk about.

 

The phone looks like it has a dull finish ... I am sure it is just age.  Do they make a matte finish shellac?  I just checked checked Home Depot.  When I search shellac, it brings up gloss and semi gloss lacquer ... is that the same thing?  I am guessing it is not.

 

I search varnish on the HD site ... lots of strippers came up ... only one I see is Spar Varnish (available only by the case), a varnish topcoat at $82 a gallon and some kind of echo friendly varnish (betting it is not real varnish).

 

 

If you only have a few cans of Minwax, do the "Saving the Finish" first, then take to a Sherwin Williams and see if they can do a custom match.   Start there.  The displays in the store or chip are only a suggestion of how (some) woods take that finish.

 

Terminology gets a bit sloppy.  To some people, stain means a pigmented stain.   To me it means either a dye or a pigment, or both.   Some of Minwax stains (called "Wood Finish" for some odd reason) are pigment, some are dye, and some are both.  Bob Flexner says how to tell.

Shellac was a predominate commercial finish up to WWI.   Then the gunpowder industry tried to find something to do and they came up with lacquer finish.  Up until WWII, shellac waned and lacquer gained market.  After WWII, lacquer pretty much took over in the commercial market.   And yes, they are different having different resins.   Varnish has been around for quite a while, but is not suited to mass production due to its dry time.  But has been used by one-off craftsmen and hobbyists who are not concerned with turning out hundreds of pieces a day.

Shellac comes in gloss only.   They sell a "shellac flat" that is an agent that produces less-glossy finishes, but is very difficult to get into suspension.   It's easier to kill the gloss with abrasion (think steel wool or sandpaper), or maybe steel wool on some wax, or even top coat with some less glossy aerosol lacquer.

 

Zinsser "Seal Coat" or "Bullseye" are the most common brands (if not the only) of pre-mixed shellac.  SealCoat and Bullseye aerosol are dewaxed.  The canned Bullseye are waxed, not that makes a huge difference unless you are top coating,  and they come in a couple of different colors.

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