Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Fluid?

OrchidOCDSeptember 29, 2011

Hello Wood and Finish/Refinish Gurus,

In my younger years, I used to do a moderate amount of antique/almost antique furniture refinishing. My favorite products at the time were the Homer Formby's line of Refinisher, Teak Oil Varnish, etc.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and thanks to the variety of Craigslist, I find myself again assembling a collection of pieces that need refinishing to bring them to their former glory. Headed down to my local big box, and found that the products I used to use look a lot different, have a Minwax label, etc. Are these the same products, or are there good analogues of those older products that you'd recommend?

Most of the pieces I'm planning to refinish are likely lacquered or shellacked, not polyurethaned. I'm hoping to strip the old finish without loosing the wood patina, then NOT restain, just apply a hand-wiped Teak Oil blend shellac. Best currently available prioducts at a big box for this?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lowes still carries Formby's products, including their Furniture Refinisher.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 1:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

>Teak Oil blend shellac ?!?

No offense, but it sounds like you've been confused by the misleading labels on these products.

BTW, Minwax acquired Formby's some years ago, before it was acquired by Sherwin-Williams. There are about six major manufacturers of finish and paints that have swallowed up via merger and acquisition most of the labels out there.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 7:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the replies. I mis-typed regarding the Teak Oil blend shellac - I meant teak oil blend varnish, which I understand is what most 'teak oil' hand-wiped finishes actually are - a blend of varnish containing a percentage of teak oil. the Formby's one I used 20 years ago has held up amazingly well on the pieces I still have (several sold over the years) and I'm hoping that the now-owned-by-Minwax Formby's will do the same.

Is the current formulation comparable to that of 20 years ago?

Thanks again for the replies.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Most don't contain a drop of tung oil. Formby's is simply a thinned varnish. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just the only tung oil is on the label.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oil finishes

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 7:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just to clear up some possible misconceptions about varnish. Varnish is a combination of a resin and a drying oil. In the old days woodworkers made their own by boiling these on a stove with a solvent, usually turpentine. Linseed oil, (also boiled) is a drying oil, as is tung oil, walnut oil and others. Various resins have been used over hundreds of years, including polyurethane, a relatively recent "synthetic" resin. I, personally, use an old formula varnish made with tung oil and phenolic resin. I've looked for years for this formula and it wasn't easy to find a source. There are several well-known commercial varnishes (mostly marine, "spar" varnishes)with tung oil added as well as some that contain phenolic resins.

For many many years wiping varnishes have been made by diluting varnish with oil and turpentine (or other solvent) in equal proportions and either wiping or brushing it on.

Every varnish is different and has a different feel. Brushing varnish is a minor art, but the right brush always helps.

Other minor misconceptions you might have about removing/replacing shellac or lacquer finishes is easily remedied and not very difficult to do. If you buy quality products (don't worry about particular brands you have used in the past) you shouldn't have many problems.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shellac is "spirit varnish", and contains no oil.
I think the Formby's product is called "Formby's Furniture Refinisher" not refinishing fluid.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 11:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The terminology gets a bit sloppy and is certainly not helped by centuries of finish chemistry and manufacturer's labels.

When most people think of "varnish" they are referring to a product produced by heating an oil with a resin to create a new substance. This substance is then thinned to create a brushing or wiping consistency. So:

Resin + Oil ------> Varnish

Varnish + some thinner ---> brushing varnish
Varnish + more thinner ---> wiping varnish

1 part varnish + 2 parts (additional) oil + 6 parts thinner --> Danish oil (more or less, depending upon mfr formula) teak oil, antique oil, etc.

The common oils are : Linseed, soy, and tung.

The common resins are: urethane, alkyd, and phenolic, or some combination. Arcane formulas for violin varnish, etc., would use natural resins, but we're unlikely to see those in a can anywhere.

The thinner is usually a petroleum distillate such as mineral spirits.

Some people call anything that dries by evaporation a "lacquer." So that would include shellac (sometimes labelled padding lacquers) and some even stretch it to include acrylic finishes (the so-called water borne lacquers, that cure only partially by evaporation). But when most people think lacquer, they think of nitrocellulose lacquers, or perhaps CAB lacquers.

It's a shame there is such confusion. It's one of the things that makes finishing more complex (and hated) than it really needs to be.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 5:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The wiki article on "varnish" is pretty complete and accurate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wiki Varnish

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:21AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Wood Countertop Oil? Tung vs Mineral
I am going in 2 different directions for my Island...
Finish for mantle
We had someone make a mantle from pine and while it's...
Jennifer White Green
protecting black walnut salt and pepper mill
Hi all, Just got a set of gorgeous discontinued William...
Anyone have experience with Charles Neil's Preconditioner?
I just ordered it and am wondering if anyone has used...
Advice on finishing outdoor cypress mantel
Hello all, I have a wood finishing dilemma. I have...
Jack Mason
Sponsored Products
Fatboy First Parc Avenue Ottoman - FPC-BLK
$149.00 | Hayneedle
Campania International Medium Sitting Cherub Cast Stone Garden Statue - C-102-AL
$109.99 | Hayneedle
Knotted Rattan Drum by Uttermost
$283.80 | Lumens
World Magnetic Travel Map
$199.00 | FRONTGATE
Design Toscano Bigfoot the Giant Life-Size Yeti Statue - NE110119
Chintaly Teresa Oval Back Dining Side Chairs - Set of 2 - CTY1301
$484.44 | Hayneedle
Campania International Itsy The Gosling Cast Stone Garden Statue - A-447-AL
$29.99 | Hayneedle
Campania International Dragonfly Cast Stone Bird Bath Small - B-149-AL
$104.99 | Hayneedle
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™