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Zenith Cabinet fix

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Sat Mar 26, 2016 11:38 am

I would like some advice on how to improve the cabinet on this 1930's radio. The condition of this cabinet is really very good considering that it was set out to the street on trash day. None of the veneer is lifted however if one looks at it with the light just right some slight waves or ripples can be seen on the sides. Also there are some places where the finish looks worn and dull but the worst of it is on the top there is an area about 9 inches long and 1 inch wide where the finish is completely worn off. All that I am going to do for now is to try to get the dirt off by wiping it off with a damp rag with mild soap. I personally don't care about any monetary value as far as trying to preserve this as an antique, I will probably keep this for myself and just want it to look nice. If it wasn't for that bad place on the top I would try Howard Restore a Finish but I'm sure it won't remedy my problem. I used this product before on some junk radio cabinets and a RCA repair and it did OK, but "just" ok. Thanks for any input, Ed.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Sat Mar 26, 2016 2:55 pm

I tend to refinish any cabinet that the frau determines looks "tacky."  Her standards are pretty simple.  I also like using polyurethane, since it is nearly impervious to anything but fire or a bulldozer.  We have cats, and cats tend to "leak" occasionally.  I don't know what it is about cats, but cat saliva and especially cat urine will kill lacquer graveyard dead and almost immediately.  All you do with a poly finish is wipe it off and go on.  My wife likes to set doodads on the top of my larger cabinets, which is fine.  Polyurethane withstands all kinds of scrapes and impacts, where lacquer stands a good chance of damage.  I know all the purists and snobs insist on lacquer.  Lacquer is the reason the finish is bad in the first place.  That said, I might be tempted to refinish the top only using linseed oil or tung oil as a finish, then just be careful of it.  I did that on a Philco and it worked out nicely.  I used shellac as a wash coat after I filled the grain.  You really can't tell the top has been refinished unless you look really closely.  The sides on the Philco were nearly perfect, but the requisite flower pot sitting on the top had water-spotted the lacquer.

On another note, you have two threads titled the same going. These technically should be united. Why not change the title of this thread to something like "Refinishing Zenith cabinet" or something on that order. I see what your intentions are, but should someone do a search for your radio, they might find two threads titled alike confusing. I don't like moving your thread, so if you could change the title, we should be good. Thank you.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Sat Mar 26, 2016 4:48 pm

OK, Thanks WC.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Sat Mar 26, 2016 5:15 pm

That works. Thanks, Ed.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:14 pm

I am too afraid to touch this cabinet. I have the radio itself fixed, cleaned, polished, and otherwise spiffed up. Every attempt I have made in the past to do any type of woodwork has been a disaster and this cabinet is not all that bad. I fear that if I do anything it will cause permanent damage. I have been looking for a qualified person in my area but haven't had any luck. I am just going to wipe it off, replace the grill cloth, and wait for theright person to come along. Regards, Ed.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Wed Mar 30, 2016 2:35 am

Are you familiar with Old English furniture polish?


Last edited by Wildcat445 on Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:43 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Bill Cahill on Wed Mar 30, 2016 10:42 am

I Highly recommend against Old English polish. It's a scratch filler, and, darkens the finish substantially.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:51 am

Thanks guys for the advice. If I can't find anyone experienced to at least work with me I might have to take a crack at it. I probably have 40 hrs. of work in this project now and am surprised at how well this set performs even without a RF amplifier stage. If the finish on the cabinet turns out nice I might even get a re-pop dial scale and put a period correct cord and plug on this. The area on the top where the finish is worn down to bare wood is the part that scares me. It would have to be sanded then match the color of the stain, and then blended in. I feel that this is definitely not my area of expertise. Regards, Ed.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:16 pm

I typically give a cabinet a bath in mineral spirits, or Go-Jo and 4 aught steel wool to get the dirt and gunge off.  Than I use Old English and a stain pen to fix the flea bites and scratches.  When there is a large area with the finish totally gone, you are fairly limited to refinishing in the way of options.  They make Old English in light and dark.  I use dark on mahogany and walnut and light on pecan and cherry.  I have had good luck saving cabinets that way.  I always wipe the surface after I use Old English.  This prevents the finish from appearing blotchy and I can control how much it darkens areas.  There is nothing in Old English that is permanent.  It will "wear off" and you have to redo it occasionally.  I understand that this may not be appropriate for each situation, and may not be the answer for Ed's radio.  I offered it as a suggestion.

Here is my Imperial stereo after using the method above.


Zenith Cabinet fix Greg_s10

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:06 pm

My cabinet is re-finished to the best of my ability and it's not all that bad. To do it right though the veneer on the top should have been replaced however it can still be done some time in the future. My problem now is the grill cloth. I ordered new grill cloth and should have it sometime this week. The old stuff has been removed and the glue scraped off of the wood frame. What I need to know is what glue is best, and do I need to stretch the cloth while installing it. Have never done this before and any comments and advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Ed.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:14 am

The secret to grille cloth is to get it straight. I am not very good at it, either. My wife is in charge of grille cloth around our place. Anyways, I remove the old cloth and get rid of the remnants. Then the wife cuts a piece of cloth, plenty big to allow for stretching and for making a boo-boo without killing the project. She usually lets it hang over the edge of the speaker board about three or four inches on all sides. I spray the board with "gorilla snot" aka yellow adhesive. The we place the cloth on the glued board carefully aligning it the best we can and holding it tight. Then we take the stapler and staple the cloth along the edges to hold it until the glue dries. I have left the staples in if I think it needs them. I have tried this without adhesive and that does not work out very well. It always seems to get saggy at some point. If I were to redo a Magnavox or something I wanted to look factory, I would pay an upholstery professional to do it.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:42 am

What I had planned on doing was to tack the grillcloth down on a piece of thick plastic, spray the wood frame with aerosol headliner glue, then press it down on the cloth. The piece of grillcloth I ordered is just big enough to cover the width of the board and 2 inches to spare on the top and bottom. Hopefully this will work. Thanks, Ed.

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Post by Wildcat445 on Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:38 am

You need to put tension (stretch) the cloth a tad when you mount it, else it may sag when the glue dries. Just a thought. You'll do fine.

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Post by Dan Walker on Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:09 am

I have used Spray 77 for the grill cloth. I have also used tite bond white wood glue.
As mentioned before the key is to keep the grill cloth tight as it dries so it won't sag after it dries.
Generally I use those little tacks [used to tack papers and such on the wall] ' I spray the board where the cloth will be glued ,apply the cloth and tack one end ,then stretch it tight [KEEPING IT STRAIGHT]. Tack all around the board
and let it dry.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:34 pm

Thanks Dan. I will look for that Spray 77 glue you mentioned. The piece of cloth I ordered is 16 by 24 inches, and the board is 16 by 22 inches. Not much room for error. The cutout for the speaker is 12.5 inches in diameter and has 2 concentric wooden rings screwed to the back to size it for a 10 inch speaker, so not much room on the sides. The cabinet has three vertical strips of wood spaced 1.5 inches apart running down the center of the speaker opening. The original grill cloth was also glued to these giving more support in the center. To duplicate this the cloth would have to be glued to the board first and let dry then install in the cabinet and pressed ( glued ) to the back of these three strips. I appreciate your input, Ed.

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Post by Dan Walker on Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:55 pm

Ed From what I understand.. you probably don't have to glue the grill cloth to the three bars.
A picture tells a thousand words so if you can email me some photos of what you have I can probably
have a better idea of what you have, and we can come up with a solution.
Was the original grill cloth glued on a board, and the board screwed to the inside of the cabinet?
I have had to replace grill cloth that was also glued to some sort of vertical strips, and I just did not glue
the new grill cloth to the vertical strips.
I have also seen radios with vertical bars and originally, the grill cloth was not attached to them.
I have not had a problem with sagging grill cloth if it is stretched taught.
Send me some photos by email
Dan in Calgary

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:52 pm

Hi Dan, I will have to wait for a little later to e-mail photographs as I need my wife to show me how to work the camera. If you do a google search of 6 S 152 there are several pictures of this out there. I think Zenith glued to the vertical bars because the speaker opening is so large( 12.5"). Thanks, Ed.

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Post by 75X11 on Tue Apr 05, 2016 3:09 pm

I was going to suggest 77 also. You can find it at auto parts places that carry paint and such. They also carry it on Amazon.com.
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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Apr 05, 2016 4:09 pm

If that is 3M Super 77 multipurpose spray adhesive then Home Depot has it. Thanks, Ed.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:03 pm

Dan, I read the PM and understand it. Will try as you suggest. Regards, Ed.

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:59 pm

Grillcloth came today. Found the 77 glue at home depot. The cloth came folded up in a bag about nine inches square so there are several fold lines in it which I sprayed with a little water and laid on a clean flat place on the bench. If the fold lines are gone when it dries I will glue it on , if not maybe I will try to gently iron out these lines. By the way, thanks to all who chimed in. Regards, Ed.

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Post by Dan Walker on Thu Apr 07, 2016 12:40 am

When ever I get grill cloth folded, I use a steam iron. I lay the cloth down and put a towel on top of it and use the steam. That seems to work to get the lines out of it.
It sounds like you are coming along fine.
Good luck,,,,

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Post by Ed in W. PA on Thu Apr 07, 2016 1:01 am

Thanks Dan, the wife suggested the same thing, that is the steam iron but I was apprehensive about this approach due to not knowing the nature of the cloth. Spraying it with a light spray of water was not the ticket. It's dry now and looks no different than before. I will iron it and put it on tomorrow. Thanks again, Ed.

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