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What kind of finish do you think this is?

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  • What kind of finish do you think this is?

    Current restoration project: Got a pair of very nice and fairly large,older, McIntosh stereo speakers about two weeks ago. They are real walnut, the grills are solid walnut, and the cabinets are part solid, and part rather thick walnut veneer, about 1/8 inch, inside as well as outside, on heavy particle board.

    They need to be fully refurbished, but their finish actually looks pretty darn good. They are out in the garage right now and when one of the dogs walked past one and sniffed it he trailed some drool on it (Great Danes, they do that quite a bit). I wiped the drool off in under 1 minute, by the clock. But it left a white stain or fog where it had been. The dog's little sister ran her nose over the top of the speaker a day or so later and even though I wiped that off in under 10 seconds (really, I was right there), it did the same thing. That was several days ago, and the white stain or fog has not cleared up since.

    No matter what I decide to do to these speakers, I am going to need to know what kind of finish they have on them, so I can either fix it up, or strip it prior to fully refinishing the goregous Walnut underneath. Does the way it reacted to dog drool and nose juice, which I assume is water-based, tell any of you guys what kind of finish I might be dealing with?

    I can try to post a link to pictures if you need to see the finish and fogging. Just ask.


  • #2
    Try to wipe the fogged area with denatured alcohol on a rag. If it clears up it is likely a shelac finish in which case you can lightly sand and continue to add shelac or you can sand down completely and use whatever you want. If you have 1/8 " veneer then you have quite a bit of material to allow full sanding. Good luck!


    • #3
      Just for grins, you might phone or write McIntosh. They either do a lot of their own work, or have strict quality control over whomever they might sub-contract to. I would be willing to bet they can tell you how those speakers were finished.

      I owned a little McIntosh equipment in the past. They are a relatively small company, and are normally responsive to such requests.
      There are three kinds of people in this world - those who can count, and those who can't.


      • #4
        Just a guess, but likely it's lacquer (sp?). They use a lot of it in manufacturing plants because its so quick drying----and if I remember right, water or drool will haze it.


        • #5
          Thanks all. Following Northern Beaver's advice, I wiped the foggy areas with a shop cloth dampened with denatured, and lo, and behold, the fog cleared (if only it was so easy to clear the foggy areas of life this way). But the denatured seemed to take quite a bit of the shine and depth off of the finish too. So I guess it is shellac or laquer. Or are those the same, or is one of them a type of the other? Like a shellac is a type of laquer, for example.

          These speakers are quite old, about 30 years. There is a pair of ML-1C speakers and a pair of ML-2C speakers. I doubt that the finish is the factory finish anymore. I'm almost positive that the finish on the ML-1's is not factory because it is much darker in the inside corners of the grille frame, where it would be hard to get all the old finish out. That is why I haven't talked to McIntosh about the finish on the cabinets, I figured it had been redone over the years. Did speak with McIntosh about the 036-001 woofers in the speakers, though.

          If I want to use a scraper plane or a cabinet or card scraper to level off the wood, and remove any light scratches, can I just go ahead and scrape/plane off the finish right along with it? I hate to use a harsh stripper or anything like that on these cabinets.

          Steve, I used to own some McIntosh equipment too. Back in 1971 I was able to buy the system of my dreams: McIntosh MR 77 Tuner, C28 Preamplifier, and MC 2105 Power Amplifier. Also got a pair of the original Bose 901 speakers and a Dual 1229 turntable with a Stanton 681 E cartridge. Many, many thanks to my Mother for making a music-loving 15 year old's dream come true.

          The experience of owning McIntosh equipment is such that it stays with you for life (again, thanks mom!). Which explains my new undertaking: restoring McIntosh equipment. Most likely just the 1970 to 1978 era equipment. Unless some miracle occurs and I get a chance to buy and restore a set of XRT-20 (ca. 1980) or XR 290 (ca. 1992, I think) speakers.

          For anyone that is interested in McIntosh, the former Director of Acoustic Research, Roger Russell (also the guy who designed their whole speaker line, from the first ML-1's through the jaw-dropping XRT-20 and XR 290), has a web site that has tons of info click on the "McIntosh History" or something like that link to get to a second page with lotsa good stuff about a rare peach of a company.