maintaining 100+ year old finish

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Forum topic by luthierwnc posted 07-16-2013 08:17 AM 707 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 1746 days

07-16-2013 08:17 AM

Hello All,

This is my first post here. I am a very experience woodworker and guitar maker but don’t have much familiarity with older furniture finishes. I inherited a small writing desk from my mother a couple years ago. It is a crotch mahogany veneer over mahogany board made by Cowan about the turn of the last century. I’m guessing it was a sprayed nitro but haven’t alcohol tested it.

Coming to the south it has picked up some humidity and I think the beginnings of mold in some of the carved areas. Our cats may have helped as well. At any rate, I’d like to hear your recommendations on how to clean it and protect the finish going forward. My own idea was to hit it with 2000 grit wet-or-dry and a hint of walnut oil and then a soft carnuba mixture—but I could be all wrong.

Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks, sh

2 replies so far

View CharlesNeil's profile


2389 posts in 3840 days

#1 posted 07-16-2013 01:55 PM

I would clean it good with some Naphtha , which will leave it a little dull and sometimes a little streaky, but it doesnt harm the finish, it just really deep cleans it and removes waxes and polishes, Then give it a good waxing to bring back the luster, if you have some nicks and scratchess, look to a colored wax to help hide them. I would not sand the finish. If it needs “scrubbing” , get a Abralon pad, they are much better a 3000 grit will give you a nice high end satin sheen. You are correct it is either the old nitro lacquer or shellac , in either case the Naphtha will clean it and not harm the finish ..

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1746 days

#2 posted 07-16-2013 02:26 PM

Thanks for the tips. I’ll keep an eye out for the Abralon pad—although it is in pretty good shape and the few scratches add a little character. Which wax do you recommend? Cheers, sh

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