Coming Clean or Stripping it all off


Antique Radio Cabinets: Refinishing versus Preservation

OK, so your radio cabinet looks bad and it needs some sort of work.   If large areas of the finish are gone and discolored you may have to strip and refinish the cabinet.  Lots of radios, however, fall  between the really bad and the perfect.  You can make many of these radios look great without stripping them, some with only a small amount of effort.

There are several options for the cabinet on your radio:

1. Repair loose veneer, clean the cabinet and use wood stain to touch-up areas where bits of the dark finish may be missing.  Once the cabinet is clean, apply a coat of paste wax (floor wax, available at grocery stores).  This is the least expensive option and preserves the finish in it's most original condition.  The radio often looks good, but not perfect or brand new.  To sum up; Cheap, Easy, Little risk of messing up the cabinet.

2. If the cleaning does not make the cabinet look good,  you can strip and refinish the portions where the finish is missing or flaking off, clean, sand and over spray the veneered portions to make the entire finish match.  This option preserves the original finish on most of the radio, but is not any easier than a complete refinish, sometimes it is more difficult.  The advantage is that most of the original finish is preserved.  This is a difficult option, and requires some experience.

3. Refinish the entire set.  This will make the set look new if done properly and accurately.  Refinishing can severely devalue a set if done improperly.

Many collectors are much more interested in preserving existing finishes than making the radio look new.  In general, you should try to preserve an original finish, especially on more valuable or scarce sets.   Not everyone shares this point of view, so in the end it is a matter of personal preference. 

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