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Questions on Refinishing Antique Heart Pine

Posted by synrgystyk ( on
Tue, May 6, 08 at 10:43

I posted this on another forum, but thought I'd also ask here since there seems to be pretty regular traffic....

So I've spent the last few months reading various home improvement, DIY, woodworking, and home repair forums. It's been a very educational (and confusing) experience -- one I'm masochistic enough to want to continue. ;-)

In June 2006 we bought an 1890-ish Victorian with wood floors (oak downstairs, heart pine upstairs) and mostly intact original -- painted *blech* -- woodwork. One of our current projects is redecorating the "new" master bedroom and that includes stripping all of the heart pine trim. Through a combination of infrared and chemicals, I'm down to the last window (the trim anyway -- renovating the windows is a whole 'nother project!) and am soon going to need to decide on a finish (or finishing process).

I've read lots of stuff online and perused several stacks of books from my local library. I'm pretty sure the original finish -- which I'd like to replicate for the most part -- on the wood was shellac. However, other than using shellac, I'm floundering in a sea of information overload. Help!!

My boyfriend would like to make the trim a few shades darker than the floor. We both really like the color variation and graining in the antique heart pine, so while I don't mind darkening the wood, I also don't want to obscure the graining. I was thinking about using a variation on one of Glen Huey's recipes and processes from the Popular Woodworking site:
1. Sand through 180
2. Moser's "Golden Amber Maple" or or "Natural Antique" water-soluble aniline dye
3. Sand any raised grain
4. Boiled Linseed Oil
5. Dewaxed Garnet Shellac

*Does this recipe/process sound like it'll work to give us the darker trim while bringing out the wood's grain?
*Does anyone have any pics of antique heart pine finished with a similar process -- specifically of using dye and then BLO? (I'm a bit short on sample boards since antique heart pine doesn't exactly grow on trees anymore. Sorry, couldn't resist. )
*I've read a lot about the propensity of pine to blotch with staining or dyeing: is this also a problem with antique heart pine? If so, do I need to first use a sealer coat of clear/blonde/whatever shellac?
*Any ideas of total finishing time? Should I plan to thin the BLO to speed drying?
*Any other comments/hints/suggestions/cautions?

I know I've probably left out or misstated plenty of information, so please feel free to ask questions. Oh, and thanks for the help!!


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Questions on Refinishing Antique Heart Pine

I would not use any kind of dye to darken the wood. I would just go with a coat of garnet dewaxed shellac, and 2 coats of Varnish.

RE: Questions on Refinishing Antique Heart Pine


So is it your opinon that the garnet shellac is likely to provide sufficient darkening by itself? And why varnish over the shellac? From everyting I've read, a few coats of shellac should provide a nice finish and will allow me to easily touch up any dings. What about using the BLO to accentuate the graining?


RE: Questions on Refinishing Antique Heart Pine

This is a set of test boards I finished (very rushed!) with two different colors of shellac: The left side is Ultra Blond Dewaxed (the lightest shellac you can get) and the right is Garnet. The woods are T to B : Antique longleaf (georgia) pine, Quilted Birdseye maple, White Oak, Mahogany.
ultra blond vs. garnet shellacs
Resist the urge to stain your woodwork with dye or anything else for that matter. Dyes can work unpredictably on stripped softwoods and since it's indelible its really risky unless you know exactly how strong to apply, and how it will take.

RE: Questions on Refinishing Antique Heart Pine


Thanks for the clarification on dyes and stripped woodwork. I hadn't thought of that complication (the reaction of the methylene chloride/paint/original finish/mineral spirits with the raw wood and that whole result's effect on the wood's uptake of the dye). I do like the look of the garnet shellac on your antique pine sample, so I'm thinking a couple coats (or more) of that may be sufficient. (If I'm the one doing it, it *will* be sufficient. LOL)

If nothing else, I can do small "test patches" on the section of baseboard that's hidden behind the radiator. We had to move the radiator to repair some of the plaster behind it and since we moved it, I went ahead and stripped the baseboard. I suppose that's not much of a test area, but at least it's something.

Any thoughts on the linseed oil? Yes? No? Test it and see?


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