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2 - Antique Shoppe -
                                                                                  so dense about this but I’ve never done it before. Thanks, Katherine
           Questions &                                                                    Katherine – A piece of furniture basically has three
                                                                                  A. components – the wood, the color and the finish. After a
           Common Sense Answers                                                   piece is built from the wood, the color of the wood is often deepened
                                                                                  or even changed completely by the application of a “stain” – i.e. the

                                         with Fred Taylor                         color. After the desired color is achieved, a protective coating – the
                                                                                  “finish” - is applied over the surface. Depending on when that piece
                                                                                  was made the coating may be tung oil, shellac, varnish, lacquer, oil
                                                                                  based urethane, oil based polyurethane or any of the water borne
                 I have recently been given a bed frame from a friend of my
        Q. who says that this was her great grandfathers bed when he              lacquers or urethanes which are relatively new to the market.
                                                                                    A stain also is traditionally made of three components – the pigment,
        was a young man. I am guessing it’s quite old since my friend is 29       the binder and the vehicle. The pigment, the color component of the
        years old. It is a single bed frame, the back of the frame is stamped
        with Wm. Hengerer Co., Buffalo, N.Y. It is a dark colored wood and it     stain, is usually made of some type of ground earth. The binder holds
                                                                                  the pigment together and keeps it from scattering randomly in the
        is still shellacked. Can you give me any information about this bed?      solution. In oil based stains (the most common) the binder is linseed
        How old? Is it worth anything? I am attaching a photo of the bed.
        Thank you! Julie H.                                                       oil or the equivalent. The vehicle is the liquid bulk of any stain and is
                                                                                                             the solvent used to disperse the pigment
                Julie – The bed is from the late                                                             in some orderly fashion. The solvent then
        A. 1920s to mid 1930s. It is made                                                                    evaporates (as does the binder eventually)
        with a variety of woods and veneers. The                                                             and leaves a uniform coat of color on and
        headboard has a crown of quarter cut oak                                                             in the surface. Oil stain generally uses
        as does the footboard. The headboard                                                                 some  variation  of  mineral  spirits  as  the
        panel is stump cut walnut veneer as is                                                               vehicle.  Since  traditional  stain  does  not
        the outside of the footboard.  Stump                                                                 have  any  protective  finish  built  into  it,
        cut  walnut  was  the  primary  decorative                                                           when you attempt to restain a piece with
        veneer of the Depression era. The inside                                                             another coat of oil stain to darken the
        of the footboard is striped mahogany. The                                                            color, the solvent dissolves the first layer
        original  finish  is  probably  lacquer  rather                                                      as you apply the second layer and you get
        than shellac. The bed is not quite that old.        This bed, made mostly of walnut veneer with oak trim,   no darker result.
        Lacquer  became  the  furniture  finish  of        was sold in the Depression era by the Wm. Hengerer Co.,   However, the vehicle used in gel stain is
                                                                    a department store in Buffalo, NY.
        choice in the late 1920s. It is more water                                                           not mineral spirits but a type of oil based
        and scuff resistant than shellac.                                         urethane. In effect the “color” and a type of “finish” are combined
           The rule of thumb in furniture is the owner’s age, in this case 29,    in one product. But the concentration of urethane in gel stain is not
        plus 25 years for each generation said to have owned the piece. That      enough to act as a final finish on a piece of furniture. It is designed
        would make the bed 29 + 25 (father) + 25 (grandfather) + 25 (great        only to hold the “color” in place while it dries. Since urethane is a
        grandfather) for a total of 104 years, dating the bed to the early        reactive finish the addition of another coat of the same stain will not
        1900s which is too far back. Maybe it could have been grandpa’s bed       dissolve the first coat of stain as it would with oil stain, resulting in
        instead of great grandpa’s.                                               a more intense color. After using a gel stain another clear coat (or
           The Wm. Hengerer Co. was a high end department store in                several) should be applied over the color to protect the final result.
        Buffalo and not a manufacturer. Here is an interesting web sites on         Since gel stain has a urethane component it is most happy being
        the company that shows its building in downtown Buffalo. It was in        clear coated with another urethane type product. However, other
        business under its own name until 1981.                                   finishes can be used over gel stain as long as you experiment with                    the  compatibility  of  the  stain  and  the  finish.  For  example,  most
           In its current condition the bed would sell at auction for around      urethane products do not like to be coated with lacquer because
        $100. Thanks for writing and thanks for the photos.                       the high powered solvents in lacquer can make the urethane lift or

                 I found something you had written regarding darkening oak          I hope this helps. Since you are new to the subject I strongly
        Q. chairs while I was researching my own project. I have four             recommend that you spend less than $20 and invest in Bob Flexner’s
        honey colored oak dining room chairs I would like to darken to match      excellent  manual  “UNDERSTANDING  WOOD  FINISHING”.  It  is  a
        my dining room table. In the answer to a reader you said, “Your best      marvelous way to start. It is available at most major bookstores.
        bet is to try some gel stain over the existing finish. This relatively new
        product can be applied selectively to different areas to produce an         Send your comments, questions and pictures to me at PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL
        even color. It can be successfully layered to produce deeper colors,      34423 or email them to me at
                                                                                    Visit Fred’s website at and check out the downloadable
        unlike conventional wiping stains. Just be sure to let each application   “Common Sense Antiques” columns in .pdf format. His book “HOW TO BE A FURNITURE
        of color dry overnight before proceeding to the next layer. After you     DETECTIVE” is now available for $18.95 plus $3.00 shipping. Send check or money
        have the desired color you can then clear coat your project in your       order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423
        favorite finish.”                                                           Fred and Gail Taylor’s DVD, “IDENTIFICATION OF OLDER & ANTIQUE FURNITURE”,
           What I don’t understand is the last part, “clear coat your project in   ($17.00 + $3.00 S&H) are also available at the same address. For more information
                                                                                  call (800) 387-6377 (9AM-4PM Eastern, M-F only), fax 352-563-2916, or e-mail info@
        your favorite finish.”  What kind of clear coat and is the finish referred All items are also available directly from the website,
        to a color?  And isn’t the gel stain a color to begin with?  Sorry to be
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