Friday, April 13, 2012

Update on the M197 wishbone table and some other fun stuff...Le Corbusier anyone??

Here's an update on the Heywood Wakefield M197 table I'm in the process of refinishing:

There's a little tip that I probably should have mentioned earlier...Before you start the last sand on your table, wash your hands! The first couple of sands are not so critical, but you want your pieces ready to start and you don't want any hand oils on the wood beforehand! Keeping your hands clean between each step going forward is important!

The last 220 sand is complete and I've taken the time to put the drop leaves back in place to make sure they align correctly when finished. This can be critical for alignment, so take the time for this step! Whether for yourself or someone else, this is a sign of quality workmanship. I have a 22 gal. compressor with a blow gun nozzle attachment to remove the biggest part of the dust and debris before starting the finish. You can use a smaller compressor, but it's going to run non-stop. Even with the large tank I'm pretty sure my neighbors are glad to hear it shut down. I don't trust the chemicals in "tack" rags although I don't have a problem with pieces that I lacquer or urethane.

I always have people asking me what I use to refinish with. I've looked at some recipes that have been posted on-line and frankly, I haven't had the time to investigate making my own batches. I will share with you that I've purchased my finish on-line from a particular vendor for a number of years that you can find on E-bay. There are a couple of vendors out there that I personally haven't tried. If you look for "A Rainy Night in", yes that's my vendor. Very consistent over many years as far as a great match to original finishes. Enough said on that. I'm sure you can figure it out...
Ok, this is a wipe on varnish with toner in the mix. Not your normal refinishing job...

Here's one coat down with 3 to go. Clean white cotton or polycotton mix for the application rags is recommended. In the first coat you don't need to be too particlar. This is basically a seal coat. Most of what you are putting down is going to be absorbed by the wood. Just try and make sure you don't leave any drips or heavy areas that you need to resolve later and make sure try to cover all areas. Try and keep all your swipes across your piece after the first application with the grain of the piece and don't dwell on this. Hit it and leave it alone! You want to work relatively quickly and not keep going over an area again and again.
Drying times vary with temp and humidity. I normally let pieces dry about 12 hours and usually longer, but if you start early in the day and are blessed wth perfect conditions you may be able to get two coats down in one day. Make sure the pieces are completely dry before the next fun(?) step.

In this step you are going to need 0000 steel wool. Don't use anything coarser! Steel wool is another of the consumables, like clean white rags, that I go through like toilet paper and you are going to find out why in this step. My normal procedure is to take one the  rolls as it comes out of the package and rip it in half and stretch the half out a bit to make it a bit thinner.

You will notice that after the first coat is dry that you can feel pieces of dust and trash embedded in the finish no matter how careful you were trying to keep it perfectly clean. Your job is now to completely buff every inch of your pieces until you can no longer feel any garbage and the pieces are smooth.  When one piece of steel wool wears out just stack on other piece and keep going. There goes that compressor again!! Doesn't this guy ever quit??

You don't have to worry about hurting your pieces. You've got three more coats to go and each will be easier and cleaner than the last. Forget about trusting your eyes for this! Your hands are now your eyes for the duration of the job. Buffing out the imperfections after the first coat on a table like this usually takes me at least a couple of hours before applying the next coat. Same process is repeated for each coat. By the time you have the third coat on you should have very few problems with trash in the finish and it goes much faster and you want to go a lot easier with the steel wool.

Fast forward through to what your table should look like after the fourth coat:

I don't own the best camera ever made and the pics really don't do the nice depth and color of this wheat finish. Table is being reassembled tonight and J&B are picking up tomorrow! They have been very patient as this was supposed to be home before now. I'll put some assembled shots in the next post.

B of J&B sent me a pic of this very table as it appeared in circa 1966 with J's grandparents (table owners) his Mom and uncle:

Maybe we can get the new family around the table for an after pic when the chairs are completed!

For those of you who caught last weeks episode of Mad Men, you may have seen Roger Sterling napping in his Le Corbusior LC 4 chaise:

Coincidently we had a customer consign this nice Italian made LC4 and Eileen Grey E-1027 adjustable chrome and glass end table. Our consignors have some great taste!

I think the next post is going to take a look at one of my refinishing customers Mid-Mod apartment.
I'm sure you are going to love the pics, that he was kind enough to let me get, as much as I loved seeing his great taste!
As usual, thanks for taking a look...


  1. Lookin good Mr Kotter! It's turning out nice. I use tack cloth everytime so there is no free floating dust when I apply finish and to keep cleaning the shop to minimum. You really shouldn't worry as the tack in most is plant based. There are three parts Oil,Resin,Solvent, the first two are derived from trees and the third is usually Turpentine which comes from Pine Trees although it can be substituted with paint thinner. The third is your only concern but they are mostly used in auto body shop applications to cut through oils. There is a beeswax alternative or you can make your own beeswax cloth. Anyhow just sayin, I hope you wear a mask when you sand or blow the dust off as it can wreak havoc on your lungs and sinuses over time and cause some serious health issues especially if there is lead in the old finish being removed, that and natural chemicals in wood can be just as bad if breathed in dust form. Regardless keep on doin what your doin someone has to save good furniture from the burn pile.

    1. Dave, One of the reasons I'm sharing is my hope for a younger generation picking up and going forward with refinsihing in the future. Chances are good I have maybe another 10-15 years doing this before I go to the great refinishing shop in the sky or just have to quit! I'm way past being worried about the effects of lead or dust poisoning although I do work with a fan at my back to minimize the damage. Masks, gloves and all the safety equipment that is recommended for doing what I do, I totally disregard. Not that I wouldn't recommend for younger folks just starting as they may have some salvagable brain cells left worth protecting... People are always amazed at what I can accomplish in the conditions I normally work. It's hard to agrue with the finished results! I still don't trust or plan on using tack clothes on my H/W, but thanks for the info...

    2. Detail my friend, it's your attention to detail that gets you your results. I like you don't work in a Norm Abrams eat off the floor work shop. The one thing I do have is plenty of bright fluorescent light to see what's going on and funny enough a fan at my back also. I apologize if I sounded preachy, I'm am far from always being health conscious in the shop. Keep up the good work.

  2. I think it is a wonderful idea to gather the new generation 'round the table when all is finished for a nice photo.

    Dying over that LC4!

    1. Then they can pass that down to their kids and grandkids ;)

  3. Great tutorial and great consignment pieces! And, yes, I did notice the Le Corbusier on Mad Men the other night. :)

    1. thanks Dana, That's probably my last post for awhile on the refinishing process. Don't want readers getting bored! I will keep throwing "tips" out there from time to time.

  4. Nate and I are about to start on our very rough M197 wishbone table we just happened upon for pennies. As always, we very much appreciate that you share your knowledge with us!!!! This post will be super helpful! You have made it possible for us to fill our home with all of this beautiful furniture that will last for years more to come.