Refinishing Hammond Walnut Chassis

I ordered a Hammond HCLHAS1710 (17x10), walnut chassis for a tube preamp project. About a year ago I purchased the 13 x10 version for a jfet phono stage.

The boxes run about $100 with a choice of aluminum or black finish top plates. IMO they are attractive, functional, and beautifully constructed of solid (not veneer) 3/4" walnut. The major drawback for me is that they are pre-finished with kind of a flat varnish and a lackluster grey/brown stain. I contacted Hammond to see if they were available unfinished, but they are not.

I would much prefer a more dramatic finish: I personally have had great luck with Watco, oiled finishes. With walnut, a mid to dark brown with a little red (fruitwood) shows-off the grain beautifully; and a properly done oil finish is smooth to the touch and very rich. (The attached picture is a little better looking than the actual item; more red, more grain.)

Anyway, the new 17 x 10 chassis should arrive in the next couple of days and I'm going to try to refinish it. Again, I'd like to remove the varnish, change the color, and apply an oiled finish. I'm not a pro, but I've done a fair amount of refinish of old furniture and some audio cabinets.

I'd like to minimize the modifications and not screw it up. So, if anyone has done this, or has any ideas or suggestions, I'm all ears.

Thanks,
 

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Let's assume the factory finish is a couple of coats of polyurethane, which would need to be sanded off to allow application of any penetrating oil finish / stain.

Start with a random orbit sander at say, 100 G, then in 2 steps down to 220G, and finalize with hand stroke sanding at 220G.

Personally, I find walnut gorgeous enough with either a clear coat lacquer finish (one spray bomb of Mohawk, Zinsser or similar should be more than enough), or a couple of coats of Watco, Minwax or similar danish oil or tung oils

I made the trio shown below about 2003 - finished with a medium brown walnut stain and 3 coats of sprayed nitro-celluose lacquer. - I wish I'd left the stain out.
 

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Let's assume the factory finish is a couple of coats of polyurethane, which would need to be sanded off to allow application of any penetrating oil finish / stain.

Start with a random orbit sander at say, 100 G, then in 2 steps down to 220G, and finalize with hand stroke sanding at 220G.

Personally, I find walnut gorgeous enough with either a clear coat lacquer finish (one spray bomb of Mohawk, Zinsser or similar should be more than enough), or a couple of coats of Watco, Minwax or similar danish oil or tung oils

I made the trio shown below about 2003 - finished with a medium brown walnut stain and 3 coats of sprayed nitro-celluose lacquer. - I wish I'd left the stain out.

Those are nice looking units; but, I agree that a lighter stain/oil might have been less intense.

I'm thinking you're right about the varnish: probably a couple of coats of polyurethane; which should sand off. I'm hoping that I can then get the oil to penetrate and stain without having to use some kind of intense stripper. I've followed the basic Danish Oil finish technique on new veneer and solid walnut. That is, apply as much Watco oil as the wood will take over a day or two, then start rubbing in more oil using 500+ - 1000 to generate fine dust to fill pores. It takes a couple of sessions a day for about a week; but, eventually, the finish becomes incredibly smooth and beautiful. Then you can rub in some liquid Watco wax if you want.

I have used Watco Fruitwood in the past; it's a light brown with some red highlights. However, given that there is some stain there already, I might just go with Watco neutral or neutral with a little fruitwood mixed.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
 
BTW, are your top plates chrome, finished, or unfinished aluminum?


if that's for me - the top two units are Decware Zen C amps, stock powder coat finish; the bottom is Bottlehead Foreplay top plate polished / clear coated brass, transformer cover is Hammond aluminum project box painted with black semi-gloss acrylic

Paul's right, the scraper is a perfect tool for a piece this size and shape - I keep on forgetting about those.

As for the multiple coats and wet sanding, I've always preferred to leave as much of the pores of finer grained examples of cherry, walnut, sapele, ash and beech as open as possible

or is it just 'cause I'd too lazy for to take the week or so the complete the job as you describe?

why did I even ask that question ;)
 
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SS4927

Member
2013-12-08 3:15 pm
Yes its the same principal only your hand is the block and you have way more control over the blade. Sometimes Ill use the strips of razor that go in the standard utility knives to remove clear, it peels it off nice and cleanly no fuss. then progressively sand. Ive taken stain off the same way. Use good fresh sharp blades. After a few passes they become smoother and nicer to cut with.
 
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I have the walnut chassis in hand. After closer inspection, the unit is certainly not fine-furniture. It's got plastic butterflies in the joints and inside, pine-wood corner re-enforcers. But it is solid and the walnut is pretty. The finish appears to be only a couple of thin coats of a poly varnish without any staining. Just a "slap-dash" job.

My inclination is simply to use some liquid stripper (which I've done before). The varnish should come off in or two applications without incident.
 

SS4927

Member
2013-12-08 3:15 pm
A card scraper is a little different than scraping or slicing with a razor knife which i would never do, you turn a hook or burr on the edge of a card scraper. This burr is ideal for highly figured wood that is hard to plane do to the ever changing grain directions.


No not slicing, were not filleting a fish here ;) A razor sounds hazardous. Ill admit it takes some care as do most sharp tools, any tools for that matter. With a little practice to develop a technique its actually very safe and effective. Flex the blade the same as you would a card, start with light touches, pull towards you with sharp edge facing away, adjust bite size in relation to pitch and flex in the blade. Not all that different than cards. I was using blades before I knew about card scrapers. But those work well too.
 
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