Refinishing old mahogony furniture - question

marys1000June 1, 2008

I thought this older furniture was cherry but apparently its mahogony?

Googling tells me that mahogony is sort of a dark red, tight grained.

Googling mahogony furniture comes up with all pretty formal looking furniture in a dark reddish finish - pretty much all the same.

If I try to refinish these (actually hire it out) - will I be able to change that formal looking color at all? Tone down the red? Oxidizing, adding green to the stain to kill the red, distressing......or is that just where mahogony goes? Is that why all mahogony furniture is in formal styles?

Here is a link that might be useful: dresser

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It's impossible to tell what wood that is, from the photo, but it looks like some of the color is artificial. If you're looking for confirmation that it's mahogany, take a very crisply focussed close-up of the grain, preferably with an object of obvious size (such as a coin) in the pic, as a scale reference. Also, look at the worst scratches and worn areas and see if you can discern the underlying color where the finish is gone.

Mahogany is typically a warm reddish-brown, but there are many varieties of mahogany so there are variations in color as well. It sounds as if you're not thrilled with this color but you haven't said what you'd rather it be, which makes it hard to tell you whether your wishes are feasible.

Finally, go to this page, scroll down and read the blurb on "The Age of Mahogany."

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 3:29PM
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Thanks Jon - embarrasingly it was the refinisher who looked at the nightstand yesterday who told me it was mahogany not cherry as I thought. He was the one that said "circa 1940". I didn't really find anything in your article about it.

I'd rather it be a warm golden brown color. I guess I'd settle for something that isn't red or reddish.

Here is a spot on the raised rim (I suppose that could be different from the veneer so not sure how much help it is)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 4:24PM
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w 2 inch hardware for scale of grain

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Well, it's definitely not cherry. The panels / drawer front do have a mahogany-like texture, but it looks as if narrow molded parts may be of something lighter. Both appear to have been colored fairly heavily. It might be feasible to strip a lot of the overly reddish pigment from this piece, but "golden" may be tough to achieve.

I linked to the article to give you a sense of the style of furniture that was common at the time when mahogany was being most widely used, in hopes of addressing your question "Is that why all mahogony furniture is in formal styles?" I didn't mean to imply there was specific information about your piece.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 4:43PM
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picture with 3/4 inch long veneer chip.

If the veneer sheets follows the color of the scraped spot in picture one which is probably more a solid piece, 1 it does seem that it is a fairly red wood underneath.

Is there anyway to kill that red? I realize that some might feel that if I don't want red I shouldn't have mahogany - but these are old hand me down family pieces, reuse, recycle, save money all that. I
My preferences would be for a warm honey color but thats probably not going to happen. Some sort of brown, or just something that has no red.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 4:43PM
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The refinisher mentioned oxidizing, he didn't want to bleach and I don't blame him. Can green be added to a stain to kill the red?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 6:04PM
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Mahogany doesn't have to be usually is because that was thes tyle in the "age of Mahogany" when it was popular.
I have what I have been told is a late 18th centure side table which is not reddish at all.
Make sure your refinisher uses a stain with no hint of red at all....or no stain!
The spot under the "scraped spot" doesn't appear to be mahogany. Often pieces like you have used mahogany veneer on the drawer fronts and the top and another wood, stained reddish for the support pieces.
The "formal color" is not color but the style of the chest.
I would tall the refinisher to use MinWax Special Walnut with a very light touch.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 7:01PM
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The chip looks like the substrate under mahogany veneer.

You can order veneer samples from Constantine's as set and compare to see if you can find a match, but that does look like shellacked mahogany.

You can probably cut in a repair and make it almost invisible.
The color is likely to be aniline dye, with top coats of shellac.
The shellac is NOT 'blond' but one of the lower grades that has some color.
You can est for shellac using a q-tip and denatured alcohol.
If the finish dissolves it is shellac.

It is a decent enough piece to restore.
A cleaning with paint thinner, followed by a light brushing with straight denatured alcohol is likely to reveal the original look.
If it is not to your liking shellac is easily removed, though the aniline dye may require bleaching to remove the color.

I have an entire dining room set with various crotch veneers from the 30's at the height of popularity of the style.
It is very striking to look at with all the book matched doors.
This looks to be a not as fancy piece, but if well built is worth restoration.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 8:29PM
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