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

Posted by OrchidOCD (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 29, 11 at 7:53

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?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

>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.

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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.

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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.


RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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.

RE: Current Products Similar to the old Formby's Refinishing Flui

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

Here is a link that might be useful: Wiki Varnish

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