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Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.

Posted by detroit_burb (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 30, 12 at 11:37

I am trying to prepare this set to be used for my daughter. There is a thin top layer of amber shellac which sands off very easily, and then under that the finish looks dull. When I sand, the dust is all light yellow, I am not sanding any wood away. It seems that under this dull haze is a layer that is more glowing, the layers can be seen in these pictures. Towards the top is the shellac shiny layer, to the left is the dull layer, and to the right is the glowing layer. Is the dull haze a thick layer of wax?? Initially I thought it was original finish, now I'm not sure. Is sanding the right thing to do?

Thanks all!


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.

I dunno. Try the woodworking forum. They're a helpful bunch for refinishing stuff.

It's going to be so nice!

Here is a link that might be useful:

RE: Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.

I don't think shellac would have stuck successfully to wax. I prefer to strip rather than sand and if the finish is truly shellac, alcohol will remove it.

RE: Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.


Alcohol dissolved it, and I wiped and wiped but still got more amber goo on the wipes. The sanding block moved the top layer faster, but below it seems to be something else. I have not gotten down to wood.

This headboard is the third piece I am working on, on the other pieces, the delineation of layers was not as evident, and now I'm wondering how deep to dig.

I did not want to strip because the wood is blonded and I may affect that color that was applied below the finish maybe? I am also worried about the smell inside the house.

What stripping process would you recommend?

RE: Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.

The trick to removing shellac and old polish and wax build-up all at once is to use a 50/50 mix of laquer thinner and denatured alcohol. Apply it with medium coarseness steel wool, let it sit a minute or two to soften the layers and gently scrub it loose with the steel wool. It will turn into a brownish sludge.

Then wipe off the sludge with a rag, dip the steel wool into the mix and do the next area.

When you think you have it all, do it one more time over the whole surface with fine steel wool, and then wipe with a rag moistened in the stripping mix just to make sure.

That mix is flammable and stinky - do this outside away from flames. It also dries out your skin, so gloves are nice. It will not darken the wood, it just removes waxes, old polish and shellac and old-style varnishes.

Here's an example of what it can do - that blackened alligator look is decades of wax and polish build-up over whatever the old finish was.

RE: Thick layer of wax on 1940's bedroom set?? Please help.

This ia NOT a suggestion for any piece that might be even REMOTELY valuable or has veneer. For a while I was into painted furniture and pretty much all of my "raw materials" came from yard sales... dusty, dirty old chairs, mostly. First ones I ever did were 2 neat old (solid wood) chairs with big carved roses on the backs. The fabric on the seats was gross... easily remedied. After seats were removed, got lazy... tried one of those foaming spray cleaners and surface just went a gray, sticky mess... years of hands, polish?? Since I only paid $5 for the pair, was lazy, and didn't have much to lose... pulled out a can of dollar store spray OVEN cleaner. YEARS of crud, wax, shellac/varnish just ROLLED off. I did this OUTSIDE (obviously) and just hosed them off and let them dry. Ended up with pretty much totally stripped, bare wood to start painting on.

AGAIN... DO NOT try this on anything you KNOW or THINK might be the least bit valuable.

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