Advice needed on cleaning and reviving joinery in Victorian property

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koalabear

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Hi all, I'm looking for some advice - we live in a Victorian property built in 1895 in Edinburgh. In our hall, we have wooden panels that at some point in the past look like they have been stained. I'm not sure if they're varnished. We would like to revive these to bring out the colour without having to sand down to bare wood. Same type of wood and finish is also used on skirting boards and staircase balustrade which is also exposed to light and I think has some UV fade to it?
1. how can I determine what sort of finish has been applied to the wood (whatever its remaining of it)
2. what can I use to clean the wood first of grime/dirt - someone before advised me boiled linseed oil mixed with clear spirit but I can't find what proportions it needs to be or whether its safe to use like this?
3. what can I use to revive the wood - on the walnut worktop in kitchen I use danish oil regularly - would that be suitable product to try on the panels?

Photos attached.

Appreciate any advice.
 

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Sandyn

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You will get lots of good advice on here, but before doing anything, I would contact the engine shed, which is in Stirling. In their words:-
"" The Engine Shed has been supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to create Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre. It enables us to encourage understanding of traditional building materials and skills among the public and professionals and raise standards in conservation for traditional buildings. "" Hopefully they will be able to give you advice on the best approach, then you can compare to advice from here and decide. Is the building listed?
The woodwork looks spectacular.
 

Jacob

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Sanding would be disastrous.
Careful washing with soapy warm water might help - try a bit and see if it brings off any dirt. Do it carefully without hard scrubbing or leaving it to soak in and get unduly wet, otherwise it could get very patchy.
Then raw linseed diluted with white spirit, rubbed on thin with a cloth then rubbed up a week or so later.
Or do nothing except dilute linseed oil, which is probably the original finish anyway.
It brings colour back to faded oak.
 
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Don't sand or use water. Furniture reviver is the best thing to use, it contains oils and spirits that should revive the colour and the fade. Apply with either a soft rag or 0000 grade steel wool (really fine), wipe and excess of and leave to dry for a couple of days before applying a good quality traditional wax polish. Always try in a discreet area first.
 

koalabear

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You will get lots of good advice on here, but before doing anything, I would contact the engine shed, which is in Stirling
....
Is the building listed?
Thanks I emailed them for advice too.
Its C listed but interior has been well preserved by previous owners.

Or do nothing except dilute linseed oil, which is probably the original finish anyway.
Thanks, what about boiled linseed oil which I've read is the same but dries faster? also what would be the proportions to dilute?

Don't sand or use water. Furniture reviver is the best thing to use, it contains oils and spirits that should revive the colour and the fade. Apply with either a soft rag or 0000 grade steel wool (really fine), wipe and excess of and leave to dry for a couple of days before applying a good quality traditional wax polish. Always try in a discreet area first.
Thanks, any particular furniture reviver to recommend? I've used some Fiddes waxes before and Osmo products but never any furniture/wood reviver.

Keep the advice coming please!
 

Jacob

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.....

Thanks, what about boiled linseed oil which I've read is the same but dries faster? also what would be the proportions to dilute?
......
Boiled dries faster but raw penetrates deeper and gives a more natural, less glossy finish.
Thinning it just means it goes on thinner and less likely to drip and skin over. There's no rule so it might as well be half and half.
 

johnnyb

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my advice is if your on a forum asking this then get a French polisher in to do the deed. the cost of a house(in edinburgh) v the cost of a day's labour seems a simple equation to me.
also the results will likely be like night and day in comparison to your own efforts.( no offence btw)
 

--Tom--

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Don't let wire wool near oak. :)

Was about to say the same thing- for OPs benefit iron reacts with tannin in oak to turn it black. Don’t use wire wool.

There’s a thread on here with a recipe for a wood reviver for cleaning woodwork on old tools. Similar thing would work well
 

Adam W.

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@pe2dave It's oak, but they've put something on it which has darkened the grain, that's why it looks that way.

If it was mine, I'd just give it a wipe over with a damp cloth or genuine oil of terpentine, which evaporates, and see what happens.

I wouldn't use linseed oil on it, but if you really must, dilute it heavily with genuine terpentine, it smells better than white spirit.
 

thetyreman

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I wouldn't even wet it, just use pure turpentine or linseed/turps/mineral spirit mix using kitchen roll to wipe it on, any dirt should come off, it'll smell amazing and can't possibly harm anything.
 

Richard_C

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I wonder if they have been stained or if the dark colour is a result of age and coal fires. It looks a lot like the oak panels I remember from elderly relatives houses years ago.

By coincidence I've just been re-reading a book called "better than new". From a BBC programme that pre-dates repair shop by 40 years. Lots of good stuff in there, all woodwork/furniture related. A few things that might be useful to you from that and my amateur experience:

It doesn't look like french polish to me, but a quick check is to put a drop of meths on a small cloth and rub a hidden corner - if any colour/polish ends up on the cloth it might well be french polish. Highly unlikely.

Before you do anything with oils or waxes give it a good dusting (maybe finishing with a just-damp, not wet, j cloth). If you don't do that first any dust will end up in the wax/oil

The mixture they suggest for a clean is 4 parts white spirit to 1 part linseed oil. If there is wax on it, that will lift the wax but leave what's beneath intact, if there is no wax it will still remove accumulated grime. Use a fairly coarse cloth and turn it often. I'm sure turpentine would be just as good. You could do a first pass with just the solvent then decide if you need the linseed oil. I did this with an old desk, one pass with white spirit, one with linseed oil diluted in white spirit, and it was all that I needed to do - brought it back to life but kept the variations in the wood that was part of its history.

If you need to go further you could try burnishing compound - a fine abrasive - or even T cut for car bodies - and finish with oil or wax, but keep away from sandpaper or any abrasives unless you really do want to go back to bare wood and start again.

Don't even think about thinking about modern spray wax/cleaners like pledge* - most of them contain silicones which can soften old finishes and make it really difficult to apply anything over them.

You can never make it 'like new' because it isn't new. You have time, so I would start with the least aggressive method first, look at it for a couple of weeks, and only turn to more radical means if you are not satisfied. Once you start sanding, scraping or bleaching there is no going back.



* I used to use pledge, long ago when first living alone and before my parent's visted. A quick spray in the air made the place smell like I had cleaned it :)
 

pe2dave

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Chances are, if it's 'old', then there will be some sort of wax polish on it? If you can find a hidden corner, try all the above methods till you get the surface you want?
 

niall Y

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When using genuine turpentine, it always smells amazing at first, but after too much exposure it becomes cloyingly unpleasant. White spirit will probably be a lot better if you are washing down a large area.
I agree with Adam that the grain probably has some kind of colour to it, as it is too even to be dirt.
 

Richard_C

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I wasn't thinking of dirt, more the effect of 100 years of fumes reacting with the wood but you are likely correct. I wonder if it was fashionable to stain it when the houses were built? It might be interesting for the OP to find out if neighbouring properties are similar.
 

pe2dave

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I wasn't thinking of dirt, more the effect of 100 years of fumes reacting with the wood but you are likely correct. I wonder if it was fashionable to stain it when the houses were built? It might be interesting for the OP to find out if neighbouring properties are similar.
I think so. Victorian times bare wood was a no-no? Add the housewife / maid cleaning (wax?) and the age of muck too and no wonder it's dark?
I think it was Rustins furniture restorer I last used on an oak dresser, similar age.
 

koalabear

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Thanks for advice so far everyone. Got response from Historic Scotland chap and his recommendation was in line with some of here which is to use mix of turpentine and linseed oil to clean and revive and coat with furniture wax a week later.

I have some raw linseed oil coming on Saturday but wonder what do people recommend for turpentine? Its a bit of a minefield on amazon as to which product to select. I take it it should be pure turpentine? Any brand is better than others?
 
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Thanks I emailed them for advice too.
Its C listed but interior has been well preserved by previous owners.


Thanks, what about boiled linseed oil which I've read is the same but dries faster? also what would be the proportions to dilute?


Thanks, any particular furniture reviver to recommend? I've used some Fiddes waxes before and Osmo products but never any furniture/wood reviver.

Keep the advice coming please!
Fiddes Furniture Reviver - Restorate
 
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