Hi hoping you might have some advice. I have an old vintage singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet that we use as a bar. I think it’s the original cabinet and I’d like to fix up the wood finish and varnish it as it’s got quite a lot of surface damage, some marks and wear. The varnish has started flaking, but i’m not sure where to start and I don’t want to damage the machine itself! I don’t know what woodcut is, and I’m also not sure about removing and hitting back on the fastenings and fixtures. Thought this lock down isolation time might be a good time to finally do it! Any tips? Thanks!
Hi @rkbake . Many thanks for your question, I'd be happy to assist with it.
I would suggest a full restoration on the cabinet while leaving the hinges and fittings as they have wonderful patina. Here's how I would tackle the project:
Remove all hinges and metal fittings from the work surfaces, then remove the sewing machine. If you are unable to remove any of the fittings, I would suggest covering them with a thick layer of painters tape to prevent damage.
Clean all surfaces with a rag using Diggers General Purpose Lacquer Thinner. You'll notice this product will remove years of grime which has built-up on the cabinet. Please use disposable gloves and work in a well-ventilated area for safety. A portable fan may assist if you are in an enclosed space.
There are two options I would consider in removing the existing old varnish. My preference would be to use 180 grit sandpaper to remove the coating, with sanding strokes going with the grain of the timber. Pay particular attention to the worn sections on the top. Follow that up with 240 grit sandpaper, once again working with the grain. If you work across the grain you will notice scratch marks after applying your final finish.
The other option is to use a product similar to Bondall Varnish Stripper. Through experience, I have found stripper to be messy and you may need to sand afterwards to get a great finish. Apply the stripper as per the packaging details. Once the product has activated by bubbling the varnish, remove with a paint scraper. Repeat this process until the varnish is gone and there is bare timber. Sanding with 240 grit sandpaper may be required to leave the timber smooth.
Wipe the cabinet down with thinner once again with a new clean cloth. If the surface looks inconsistent, patchy or has traces of varnish left, please repeat Step 3. Allow the cabinet to dry from all traces of thinner before proceeding.
Decide what colour and coating to apply. You'll now notice the colour of the unit is much lighter than it was before. This is the raw timber colour. If you are happy with the lighter shade, you can coat the cabinet with a product like Cabots Oil Based Satin Cabothane or Cabots Oil Based Gloss Cabothane. If you would like to return the cabinet to a darker shade of colouring you should consider Feast Watson Gloss Aged Teak Stain And Varnish. This is a pre-mixed varnish with stain included and there are many different colours to choose from.
You can apply this stain/varnish in two separate steps. The first with Feast Watson Prooftint Teak Brown Stain and then secondarily coat with Feast Watson Gloss Clear Varnish. This two-step method allows you to decide how dark you would like that stain to be by applying multiple coats. Please note that the links I have provided are for specific colours but there are many others to choose from.
Apply the coatings as per the directions on each product’s packaging. My preference when applying would be to use a good quality 50mm Woodcare Paint Brush or a Foam Brush. If there are imperfections between coats, you can use 400 Grit Wet And Dry Sandpaper to remove them before proceeding. Please wait for the coats to be completely dry before sanding.
Reinstall all hinges and metal fittings to surfaces. Replace the sewing machine into the cabinet.
I look forward to you restoring the varnish on your vintage sewing machine table. If you would like any further instructions or have questions about the process, please feel free to let me know.
This is amazing thank you! I will either try to get everything from Bunnings this weekend or order online and see how I go!