Trying to match antique look

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Forum topic by Christopher posted 08-05-2008 02:37 AM 1017 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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576 posts in 3888 days

08-05-2008 02:37 AM

I am finally to the finishing part of an old dental cabinet restoration. I had to replace 3 of the drawer fronts though and I know if I just poly-coat them the finish won’t match. Any suggestions? I tried about every stain I have on some scrap pieces and none match. I was thinking about using vegetable oil but i’m afraid the polyurethane won’t work over oil. HELP! The project is due Thursday.

4 replies so far

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3606 days

#1 posted 08-05-2008 04:10 AM

I’m thinking that if vegetable oil is going to give you the desired color, texture and gloss, that you may be able to achive satisfactory results by reducing your poly with some thinner, (start with small amount 1 part thinner / 1 part poly.) and try that on your scrap to check result. It will soak in, give a mild color push, some low level of gloss that you can build up if needed, and some level of protection.

Shot in the dark, but I hope it help.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View Christopher's profile


576 posts in 3888 days

#2 posted 08-05-2008 05:52 AM

I appreciate the advice. i will try that. Hopefully it works!

View gusthehonky's profile


130 posts in 3710 days

#3 posted 08-05-2008 08:14 AM

Saw the cab on your wk.-shop page, nice piece! I have done quite a bit of this type of work, for friends, family and supplemental $ during sow times this method has worked quite well, gaining owners and my personal approval. This is by far not an exact nor a science or methodical step by step process, more like “playing a tune by ear”.
You will never get a perfect match, impossible. I mix multiple stains along with thinner to get as close as I can, slightly darker is better than lighter. Use whatever ratio, number of products and amount of thinner needed to get desired shade. Test on scrap.
Blending both the new and old is the key to a uniform and matching finish that neither spotlights repairs nor drastically alters the original.
Apply thinner liberally to entire area where all repairs were performed, on all surfaces old and new. While still wet, apply new stain atop old and fine tune w/ thinner. Same for new draws. Keep all surfaces wet during application. Blend until uniform and even shading occurs. Use anything that works; rags, blushes, sponge, hands, etc.
Keep a small area untouched for reference, don’t get carried away.
Repeat if desired, usually when I’m satisfied I apply 1st coat of sealant asap, allow to dry, light 220 sand, 2nd. coat etc.
I have used chains to ding up chair and table legs if it helps to disguise repair.

I hope this might be some help, very hard to explain, easy to demonstrate. If messing with the finish of a antique causes doubt or worry, this method will only raise those concerns to unhealthy levels and should not be used.

-- Ciao, gth.

View Boardman's profile


157 posts in 3729 days

#4 posted 08-05-2008 02:11 PM

You didn’t mention the type of wood on the cabinet, but I’ll throw this out if it’s helpful. I’ve done lots of finish matches on very old red oak here in the upper midwest, and I start by applying a coat od ebony stain – or dark brown if that looks closer – and then sanding it off. It remains in the open pore areas even after this sanding. Then I’ll use a stain, or mix thereof, to get the color of the remaining surface. You can then use various shades of shellac to fine tune it, then poly. The final poly will impart a small amber tone on top.

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