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Shellac on a fridge!

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Unlucky Alf

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Hello everyone, having lurked for a couple of weeks I've finally decided to dip my toe in the water and appeal for a little advice.

We bought a property in France some time back and one of the many items we inherited form the previous owner was an enormous Frigidaire refrigerator, which I would guess dates from the fifties. The property used to be run as a Gite d’etape, sort of a hostel mainly for walkers and horse riders, and part of the barn was converted into a café, this café will, eventually, become my woodshop complete with kitchen, stores, washroom and lavatory :D . At the moment this Frigidaire is taking up valuable machine space so it needs to be sold or relocated to one of the new gites we are building.

One of the doors on the Frigidaire was badly marked, I think someone may have leant something against it with a strong solvent on it at some time in the past, an upside down floor mop perhaps? So I decided to strip the old finish off and start again, I would probably have had to do this anyway as the amount of dirt and grease on it goes way beyond what could reasonably be described as patina. I made a start today with 0000 wire wool and meths just to see what I was dealing with and revealed what I’d been hoping for, beautiful unmarked wood, which to my untrained eye looks like mahogany. It would certainly go some way to explaining the extraordinary weight of this thing.

I have been trying to work out how to replicate the original finish which I guess would have been shellac and wax. My only knowledge of this type of finish comes from watching “Restoration Man” on Discovery Reel-estate Time and as they say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I was wondering if anyone could give me some guidance on which shellac I should use, I was thinking of button but I’m not sure if this might be a little dark, I’ve been told that the factory finish had more of a golden hue to it but I don’t know how this would be achieved on mahogany. I know that Frigidaire used to build these appliances in oak as well so I wonder if the person who told me that is basing their statement on having seen those.

Also has anyone got any suggestions on how to speed up the cleaning process, at the moment I plan on using meths and 0000 to get the bulk of the dirt off before switching to something milder like Liberon cleaner to finish but there’s a hell of a lot of wood so any suggestions would be appreciated. The interior is painted white so I think I’ll just be sanding and recoating in a microporous water based paint and then replacing the slatted shelving units, probably with iroko or similar.

If you managed to wade this far through my post I suppose I should show you exactly what I’m talking about.






Anyone want to buy a fridge? Only those with concrete floors and a forklift need apply. :lol:

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Simon
 

PowerTool

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Hi Simon,and welcome to the forum :D
What a nice find (thanks for the pictures,explains it all sooo much better..)
Unfortunately,can't help you with the finish (I think Terry Smart would be the man to help you on that one),and from what I picked up watching Restoration Man,I think meths is about as strong as you can go anyway.

But good luck anyway,

Andrew
 

dedee

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Simon,
can't help with the query but that is one helluva fridge!.

There are some big workshops around here but one with a with washroom and a toilet has to take the biscuit.

Andy
 

Chris Knight

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Simon,

Since you are getting the finish off successfully with alcohol, then it seems most likely that the finish was shellac - and indeed, perhaps waxed too as you suggest.

There is generally no need to strip shellac if it is planned to refinish with shellac, as the new coats will melt into the old ones perfectly. The wax could be removed with mineral spirits that won't dissolve the shellac. This might be a bit quicker but not a lot - it is a painstaking process unless you go for a radical strip which I think would be quite wrong for what you are trying to do.

You can buy shellac in a variety of shades (reflecting really, its purity) from the darkest Garnet through Button to Pale blonde shellacs. They are all on the yellowish side with garnet having the reddest colour, more of a bronze really.

Shellac is easy to dye with a spirit stain and some of these are quite lightfast nowadays and come in all the colours of the rainbow. So a bit of experimentation and use of a colour wheel will get you the exact colour you want. DO NOT MISSS OUT THE TESTING STAGE on an unseen part of the piece.
 

Unlucky Alf

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Thanks for the advice everyone,

dedee":1btfir3z said:
There are some big workshops around here but one with a with washroom and a toilet has to take the biscuit.

Andy
:D Verging on the obscene isn't it? I think I'll sacrifice the washroom though as there are two other sinks and I can use it to house the compressor and extraction. Hopefully I can reduce the noise levels.

waterhead37":1btfir3z said:
There is generally no need to strip shellac if it is planned to refinish with shellac, as the new coats will melt into the old ones perfectly. The wax could be removed with mineral spirits that won't dissolve the shellac. This might be a bit quicker but not a lot - it is a painstaking process unless you go for a radical strip which I think would be quite wrong for what you are trying to do.

Chris
Thanks Chris, I'll see if I can get hold of some mineral spirits. Obviously I would prefer not to have to strip everything but every cleaner I've tried so far left a very streaky finish with alot of colour variation. Either they failed to remove the wax and muck or they went all the way through and removed some of the shellac as well. The only section I've stripped so far is the door that had the damaged finish so that had to be done anyway as I can't imagine that it could have been successfuly blended, not in such a prominent area.

I've ordered some button flakes from APTC, can't seem to find anywhere over here that sells French polish, ironic ain't it. so i'll have a go on a hidden area and see what the match is like.

Many thanks,


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Simon
 

Chris Knight

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Andy,
It may be for French polish but it is just the alcohol. As they sell it, I guess they sell the rest too somewhere.
 

Keystone

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I'd suggest getting some orange and some amber shellac flakes. It's often hard to get an exact match for an old finish, but shellac is easy to fix. To smooth the old finish I have used this method with good results. I dip 1000 grit wet sand paper in Denatured Alcohol (DNA). Rub lightly with the grain. keep dipping into the DNA as you move along. The finish will take on a cloudy but uniform appearance. After the entire area (ie: a door) is done, take a clean cotton cloth, dampen with DNA and wipe the area down. DO NOT RUB! Let this dry overnight. Prior to top coating, make sure the surface is not tacky. If it is, it is not dry and you should wait.

Now then, the different colors shellac has to offer makes for an easier match to old. Orange shellac will give you an old antique look. I suggest that you try on an out of site area. If it soesn't give the look you want, it does remove easy.
 

Unlucky Alf

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Thanks for the link to Castorama Andy, unfortunately the nearest branch to me is about a 5 hour round-trip and I don't have that sort of time to spare at the moment. Online ordering from them appears to be very nearly as expensive as getting it from APTC and I'd rather give my money to Axminster than the Kingfisher group :).

Ken, thanks for the help. I read your post "Introduction to Shellac" with great interest, in five minutes you managed to triple my knowledge on the subject. Which application method would you recommend for a cac-handed (clumsy) beginner? Having just seen the price of polishing mops, $55 for a 1inch mop :shock: , I'm leaning towards the wipe on method, if this isn't going to work though I guess I'll have to bite the bullet.

Thanks,


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Simon
 

Chris Knight

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You can apply shellac in almost any way. Wiping on with a pad is easiest. Just cut a square of cotton about 8 inches on a side and wrap it tightly around some cotton wadding - not cotton wool pinched from the wife's make up supplies. Failing cotton wadding old wool socks are good.

This won't be a pukka French polishing rubber but making one of those is one of the trickier bits of the process :wink:

Before you wrap it. wet the wadding well with shellac, then wrap the cloth tightly around it and bang it on the leg of your bench - this helps distribute the shellac through the pad and creates a nice hard flat surface on the pad.

An old Fairy liquid bottle or similar makes a good dispenser for the shellac.
 

Keystone

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Like Chris said, you can apply shellac just about anyway you want. Since I wrote that article, I have expanded my tecnic to include padding and wiping it on. Keep in mind that how every you apply it, do not fuss with it. wipe in one direction and leave it alone until it is dry. Missed a spot or drips? Don't worry. You can fix them on the next coat. Shellac is the most forgiving finish out there. Fixes easy.

I'd recommend you finish a scrap piece of wood first. This will give you a little practice before you hit that wonderful fridge you have. First coat dries real fast. You can get several coats on in a day, but I never recommend more than 3. Let it dry hard before going further.
 

Unlucky Alf

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Thanks Chris and Ken, I'm exceedingly pleased to hear that I won't need to invest in polishing mops.

This won't be a pukka French polishing rubber but making one of those is one of the trickier bits of the process
I saw this being done once by a French polisher and it really is an art in itself, the amount of tension he managed to get into the cloth was quite amazing.

Originally I was just going to give this a bit of a spruce up but one thing leads to another and now I'm even considering getting the handles re-plated :roll: I'll try your suggestions and let you know how I get on, with pics unless it's too embarassing, may be a while though. Everytime I start something these days three other thing crop up.

Thanks to all,


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Simon
 
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