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Refinishing an Ercol table

Discussion in 'Wood / Woodwork / Carpentry' started by WalksWithTurkeys, 25 May 2013.

  1. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    I want to apply Danish oil on a table with an elm top and beech frame. I have tried an oil based stain (Blackfriars) and Danish oil, but the results are not up to scratch as the oil dissolves the stain, and I end up with patches where the stain was removed. So, am I better of using an alternative stain (Colron water based say) and Danish oil, or a ready coloured Danish oil? The colour I want is medium oak i.e. a lightish brown.

    Also, the table top has some knots, and the manufacturer filled the centres of the knots with a grey filler. This filler does not seem to take a stain (Blackfriars, Colron). Is there a way to colour it dark? Or is the only option to remove it, and refill with a stainable filler, and if so, which?
     
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  3. foxhole

    foxhole

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    Do you mean wood dye?, best mixed with danish oil then you don't get patches , but dilutes colour so you need to use shade darker. A dark oak would give a medium oak finish [test on underside].
    Colour knots black with a permanent marker and allow to dry before applying oil.The patches are probably poor dyed areas not oil damage , it just high lights the damage.
     
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  4. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    Thanks. I will try the marker pen trick, sounds good. :D

    I am sure the patches were due to rubbing stain off. The stain was very even when applied, but came off when oiled with a cloth. When I used a brush on one surface, I had no such problems, but the oil went on too thick, and I don't like the result.
     
  5. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    For what it's worth, the oil based stain did not work well, it blocks absorption of Danish Oil, and comes off when DO is rubbed in. If you don't rub in the DO, it goes on too thick. Pity because it gives an amazing effect. Ready dyed DO is better, but not such nicely highlighted grain. As for beech, I don't think it stains at all well and is best oiled as is, or finished with a coloured varnish.
     
  6. Agile

    Agile

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    I have a light elm Ercol table which has become patchy where it has become worn.

    Thought I had solved the problem with some furniture oil which recoloured it nicely.

    Trouble is that it dried up after a few days and was back to the original problem!
     
  7. Dave54

    Dave54

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    Really if you want to oil something the only way to do it is to strip the existing finish back to bare wood, otherwise you're going to get patchiness due to the oil (and stain if used) not being absorbed into the wood.
    As far as the filler goes, it's probably a two part filler similar to the stuff they use on car bodies. You can't stain it AFAIK. Filler that's supposed to take colour doesn't usually do it that well in my experience. You're better off starting with a filler that is somewhere near the desired finish. If it gets darkened slightly it will be less visible as a darker spot, than as a lighter one.
     
  8. Agile

    Agile

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    The existing finish on the elm seems very thin.

    Is light sanding the best way to remove it? Or some chemical ?

    After stripping it back whats the best solution to varnish/stain/oil it?

    Tony
     
  9. Dave54

    Dave54

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    If it's solid, quite coarse grained hardwood like elm (I think most Ercol is solid) and not veneered (please don't blame me if it is veneered though), then personally I'd try sanding it with something like a 120 grit followed by a 180. Get it back to the bare wood and try not to dub (round) the corners over. Don't go mad though. Then refinish with what you prefer.

    The thin finish that's already on will be some sort of catalytic lacquer at a guess. Not really a DIY proposition.
     
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  11. Agile

    Agile

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    Its not very professional but I like to use clear polyurethene varnish but I know its not the right thing.

    ASs I have careless lodgers sometimes a hard finish may still be better.
     
  12. Dave54

    Dave54

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    Horses for courses. Use what you have to, it's no good having a finish that's going to be spoiled quickly.
    Years ago there was an article in the Woodworker IIRC about using a rubber (no not one of them :), a cloth pad folded around wadding as used for French polishing) to apply Polyurethane. Can't remember the details, but it apparently gave a thinner coat, more like a lacquer finish.
     
  13. Agile

    Agile

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    Does anyone know what the original finish Ercol used on light elm tables?
     
  14. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    Ercol used nitrocellulose on some if not all of their furniture until ~1995, and they then switched to water based acrylic. Nitro was also used by Gibson on their guitars, and many guitarists like the way it ages.

    Nitrocellulose can be repaired. Search online for details.

    As far as I know you can't really repair acrylic. You might be able to apply furniture wax, to fill scratches, I'm not sure. It'd be easy to check. Acrylic is tough, but it chips and cracks. You can sand back the top, then respray with acrylic if you have the facilities. Acrylic looks like plastic in my opinion.

    A lot of Ercol furniture is solid wood. Some uses veneers when appropriate i.e. usually not to reduce cost. It is easy to check. Look at the edge, if you see end grain, it's solid. The catalogues on the web site (they have an archive) usually tells you whether it is solid wood.

    I completely stripped back an Ercol Plank dining table, and an Ercol round coffee table. I used a sanding block and a power sander for flat surfaces with 80 grade paper, then 120 grade, then 320. Be careful of curved edges as said above. They are best done by hand, allowing your hand to follow the shape. It took maybe 1 solid day of work to strip one table. The small one took almost as long, as what takes time is the curves and corners. You can use chemical strippers (with wire wool and scrapers) but they are expensive and smelly.

    The tables usually if not always come apart. The ones I have seen have tops held on by screws. So you could refinish the top alone.

    The two tables I have refinished were re-stained (only the top), oiled (3 coats) and then finished with Briwax. The result is gorgeous, much more depth than acrylic, the grain shimmers. Oil was after all the original finish for furniture until ~1820. It is very easy to apply, and not expensive. It is not tough, but it ages well, knocks can be reoiled or just polished with wax, to create patina. My neighbour was an unholsterer and he finished wood with vegetable oil and Johnsons furniture wax.
     
  15. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    And regarding knots, the grey filler does stain with a permanent marker as suggested above. I found a brown one best. When sort of dry, I rubbed it with a cloth to soften the edges, and make the colour blend in better. It looks very good.
     
  16. Agile

    Agile

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    My table is solid elm with rounded corners. It was pretty expensive a long time ago when I bought it.

    I suppose that I am going to have to sand it then.

    This nitrocellulose, is it possible to buy it and just add it over the original or perhaps just to the worn patches?

    Tony
     
  17. WalksWithTurkeys

    WalksWithTurkeys

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    I've never used nitrocellulose, but according to posts online, it can be touched up. I'm afraid you'll have to search for information, I can't give first hand information.

    Ercol make very good furniture, oddly worth little used, and they go for a song at auction. I think people like new.
     
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