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Faux finishes?

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Post by Dion on Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:40 am

Hello all. I'm new to this site and to antique radio restoration. I've completed a few and am working on 4 more currently. I've not had too much trouble yet with chassis work, but for me cabinets are more daunting. As a "for instance", I purchased a Philco 89-123 Cathedral radio on which the cabinet is a bit rough. I THINK that the front of the cabinet has what I've seen described as a faux finish. It appears to have some wood inlays, but I suspect that they are actually areas which have been stained or bleached into accent shades. I haven't stripped the old finish for fear of removing this faux finish, if in fact that's what it is. However, the radio is pretty rough looking, and I'd like it to be beautiful. Can anyone point me to books or articles with which I can educate myself on the subject of faux finishes and antique finish restoration in general? I want to learn to make these cabinets beautiful, and keep them original enough to not detract from their character and value. Thanks in advance for your help. -Dion
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Post by GaryRabbitt on Sat Jun 04, 2011 1:52 am

Hi Dion,
Stewart Schooley was the master of the photofinish for old radios. About 3 years ago, he passed away. Not many knew of that until someone did a seach and found he passed about 3 years ago.

His webpage was going to be cancelled, but thanks to Ron Ramirez, the pages lives on. Also included are some items from an email that Stewart sent me years back.
It is all here:
http://www.philcoradio.com/schooley/

You will see that there are many ways and ideas to try ot to reproduce a faux grain finish.

I don't know if your particular set has faux grain, usually you can look with a high powered magnifier and see if it was printed on. The 89B appears to have a full photofinish front. If in doubt, post a message at the Philco Phorum, Ron will help you out.
You may have already seen this info on the various models and schematics for the 89
http://www.philcoradio.com/tech/89evol.htm

If a set is really flaking it's photofinish off, then it would be best to redo the set. Either use it to experiment with photofinish, or perhaps apply a suitable veneer.
If a p'finish is ok with only a few bad spots, we usually suggest that you touch up the areas with oil colors, stains etc. Then coat with a clear. I have seen some great touch up jobs. A little bit of artistic talent, goes a long way. Swirl the paint in to match the surrounding areas, mix dabs of colors to match the cabinet and use a fine artist's brush.
Good luck.
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Post by Bill Cahill on Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:36 am

Gary, thanks for the link! I didn't know about this. Very interesting...
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Post by Dion on Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:25 am

Mr. Rabbitt:

Thank you for your kind reply and for the valuable information therein. It is the only data I've seen so far on this subject. I will definitely research this.

Best Regards, Dion
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Post by GaryRabbitt on Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:59 am

Hi Dion,
Happy to help. This is about the only definitive info that has been gathered specifically for radios. It's a shame that Mr. Schooley is not with us anymore, as he would always send a personal email to those who needed help. He was quite an accomplished artist too, and I believe a teacher of the arts.

There may be other faux grain websites out there that you can search for, I have seen a few. I have saved some high res photos of woodgrain patters that would be good for a base for the print he mentions. I even have some sample photos from actual radios of the photofinish. From that a person could recreate the exact pattern the radio originally had.

Basically it will be a lof of experimenting and finding what works best for you.

Take care and let us know if you persue trying theprocesses.
Gary.
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Post by Dion on Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:02 am

Gary, I looked up the Schooley materials on the philcoradio site. There's a lot of good advice there, which I will have to try once I get to those Philcos (I've been working on a bench-full of Zeniths. One one of those (a 6S632) I tried air-brushing on some wood-grained stripes. It looks very good, but not original. Thanks again for you replies. -Dion
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Post by tjet25 on Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:14 pm

Two years ago, my first restore involved using photo finish. I bought the radio from an antique store going out of business and this thing was a mess. I found Mr. Schooley's website and tried to follow his techniques. Basically I ended up finding a picture of a woodgrain that mimicked the grain on the radio then printed out a black and white copy. I did some mixing of oil paints to get the right color. My bigest problem was trying to find a sealing product to keep the ink from running. I hate to admit this but spray polyurethane was the only thing that worked for me. I hate using poly, I feel it's a no-no on these radios and I won't do it again (always lacquer finish for me). Anyway, it did turn out nice. Meanwhile, I will find a better way to do this without using poly. Here's a picture below with the photo finish around the edges on the upper top and down the middle of the speaker grille. This is a GE915L...

https://2img.net/h/i1079.photobucket.com/albums/w514/tjet25/DSCF1043.jpg

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Post by Bill Cahill on Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:36 pm

Very nice....
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Post by Dion on Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:07 pm

Tjet: Your GE looks very nice. Did you create the wood grain completely by duplicating your printout by hand, in paints? What did you use for the backing, and how did you apply it (what type of glue). Seems to me that the glue, as well as the sealer, will be a source of compatibility issues with the artwork. -Dion
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Post by tjet25 on Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:37 pm

Dion,
The wood grain came from a wood veneer website that posted different samples they had available. I simply saved the sample to my computer (I think it was tigerwood). Then I printed out a copy in black and white on my inkjet printer. I made several copies. One was on regular paper 21lb wt/96 bright. One was on Photo paper, another on sticky back paper used to make bumper stickers. The sticky back worked the best. The photo was too thick, the 21wt too blotchy. After printing on sticky back, I cut it into several strips and placed them on to a test piece of wood. Then I made several different mixtures of oil paints to get the right color. Then the fun began on trying to figure on how I'd seal it too the wood and get the semi-gloss/gloss finish. I tried everything (clear lacquer spray, etc) The only thing that gave me the finish I was looking for without bleeding the ink on the paper was polyurethane (yuck). Well it had to do, I was out of choices. The sticky back did fine in itself sticking to the veneer on the cabinet, then I over coated the faux with the polyurethane semi-gloss spray to seal it to the veneer. I had to apply several coats over several days to get the layers to match up to the level of the faux paper. I didn't really want to apply too much but I think I ended up with 5 coats. I sprayed on thin coats. It looks good but as I said, I am not a fan of using polyurethane on antique radios. To me it makes it look plastic looking or fake. Not genuine as lacquer toners and clear lacquer. But at the time I was as green as they come and I was just happy to get my results. To the average Joe, it looks great. To the collector or antique critic, it's probably a mess. Oh well, as long as I'm happy. By the way, this radio believe it or not sounds fantastic. Real nice base!
Tony

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Post by Dion on Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:50 pm

Tony, thank you for the extra detail. That clears up a bit of the mystery. I tried sticky-backed vinyl, but not trusting the glue it came with, I experimented (on cardboard) with using contact cement to secure it. As I suspected, the cement melted the vinyl within about 90 seconds. I didn't think about finding some self-adhesive paper. I'll have to try that out. I believe you when you say the radio sounds great. From what I've seen, the old consoles with large speakers sound very good when they are working properly. -Dion
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Post by Resistance is Futile on Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:52 pm

Also, unless your a perfectionist, and were in a quandary what to do, I would use veneers to replace photo-finishes. If you sell them, and unless the buyer wants perfection, go ahead and use wood veneers. They may actually look better than the original artwork. If you didn't know what the original looked like, so what? You can also go on the web and see original finishes on many radio collectors pages. I have a Radiola coffin that I just used fine steel wool along with acetone to remove the discolored finish, and found that If I didn't try to remove it entirely, it left a very nice stain in the wood. The only thing I'm going to do is refinish the edges to a dark brown for accent. Then just put a clear coat finish on it.

PS there are many furniture refinishing web pages that have oodles of finishing hints.
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Post by Dion on Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:17 pm

RIF: I considered using veneer; walnut banding would have looked great on this radio. In this instance, though, the veneer would have stood noticeably higher than the surrounding area. The radio (Zenith 6S632) came out great --better in my opinion than Zenith's original. It is, of course, not quite original now. I'll post pix when I get grill cloth delivered. Does anyone know of a new source for grill cloth, BTW? Seems the factory that's been turning out a lot of it has discontinued doing so. -Dion
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