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RobBeamer

Resurrecting Macassar Ebony Fortes

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11/9/2017 - Added some updates to the project (end of thread) for anyone that cares.


Posted some pics of these many years ago. 

 

If anyone is interested I'll post a more detailed backstory but keeping it short so I can get to my question for now. 

 

Bought directly from Klipsch when I worked part time at a stereo shop back in college days. Supposed to be the last pair of Macassar Ebony Fortes they made after discontinuing some of the exotic finishes they used to offer and signed by PWK. Were treated to a half-assed refinish job at one point that looked ... OK ... at first but the lacquer used on the last step was obviously crap and after being stored for a few years had turned yellow, really shiny and brittle so it didn't even look like real wood anymore. 

 

Seemed like a bigger job than I wanted to tackle at the time but recently decided to pull one of the bases off (had one of the worst looking surfaces) just to see what would happen if I did a few stages of sanding (get the cruddy lacquer off then finer grits to smooth things out) and rub it with a little stain. Looked pretty darned good so just kept going and by the end of the day had done both speakers. Not trying to make them perfect but will be putting some more time into it before I'm done. Attached a couple of pictures which really don't completely convey how nice they already look.

 

Anyway, my question. I'm actually liking the look of them as-is having done no additional steps after polishing them with the stain but think I recall they had at least a little bit of sheen to them from the factory. Don't think they were "oiled" but maybe some other light finish? Anyone have any idea what that might have been? Not sure I'll end up doing whatever it was but might test on the bottom of one at some point to see what it looks like. 

 

 

 

Forte3.jpg

DownLeft.jpg

Upangle.jpg

Forte2.jpg

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The label will indicate the finish type "O" = Oil "L" = Lacquer

 

Those are some of the most beautiful Forte's that I have ever seen.

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Those things look impressive. Your labors were worth the result.

 

As to imparting a sheen to them, try a paste finishing wax. Minwax makes one and you'll find it at almost any hardware store. It applies and polishes just like car wax, except repeating the process intensifies the result-they get glossier.

 

If the result is not what you were looking for, you can remove the wax with mineral spirits, although I don't know whether it will remove your underlying finish as well. Test in a discreet spot first.

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Thanks for the postive comments and suggestions. As long as it's been .... I still remember the little flutter my heart did when I had unboxed the first one and it sat before me in all of its glory. 

 

Attached a pic of one of the labels so I guess the "TYPE FOR MEL" means they were lacquer .... Macassar Ebony Lacquer. 

 

In the first pass I did the bases separately because they were quick and could let them dry while I worked on the actual speakers. Didn't touch the bottoms of the speakers yet because the let me have a side to sit them on while they dried enough to start moving them around. I'll probably make that (the bottom of each) the project for this weekend. Give that a week to "cure" and can use that to spot test anything further I might want to do. 

 

Think Klipsch customer service would still have anyone around that could advise as to what they used for the lacquer and how it was applied back then .... or a suitable alternative? Luckily they look good enough right now I'm not in a big hurry to do anything else major that would be more difficult to undo but I have a friend that owns a body shop so I'd have access to a booth and professional help if I ever had enough infomation (and confidence) to try and replicate. 

Paul.jpg

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I'll be watching this as I have a pair of MEL Heresy 2's that I'll be refinishing.  That veneer is supposed to be very rare.

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Those look great, the best looking Forte's I have ever seen, you did well. :emotion-21:

48 minutes ago, CECAA850 said:

My future project.

Those look good already, should not be hard to make them perfect. 

 

58 minutes ago, RobBeamer said:

Think Klipsch customer service would still have anyone around that could advise as to what they used for the lacquer and how it was applied back then .... or a suitable alternative? Luckily they look good enough right now I'm not in a big hurry to do anything else major that would be more difficult to undo but I have a friend that owns a body shop so I'd have access to a booth and professional help if I ever had enough infomation (and confidence) to try and replicate. 

I have no idea if Klipsch would still have someone around ? Andy worked there and is here on the forum, you can send him a message, he might know.

His forum name is HDBRbuilder , send him a message, he usually don't bite, much. :biggrin:........... really a nice guy  

 

https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/profile/7206-hdbrbuilder/&wr=eyJhcHAiOiJmb3J1bXMiLCJtb2R1bGUiOiJmb3J1bXMtY29tbWVudCIsImlkXzEiOjE3MjMyMSwiaWRfMiI6MjE4OTc2OH0=

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17 minutes ago, dtel said:

Those look good already, should not be hard to make them perfect. 

Light scratching needs to be taken care of.  I'll probably recap them while I have everything apart.

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42 minutes ago, CECAA850 said:

I'll be watching this as I have a pair of MEL Heresy 2's that I'll be refinishing.  That veneer is supposed to be very rare.

 

Glad to hear there's some interest. I'll feel a little less like a dork when I'm posting the "progress" pictures. 

 

I was only working at that shop part time and don't think it was for even 2 years but don't think we ever had anyone order one of the custom finishes during the time I was there. However, we had the samples of the exotic wood over the door to the listening room and loved the look of that Ebony. The Forte was my favorite speaker of what we kept in stock (we didn't have the space to keep the big ones on hand) so when we got the notice they wouldn't be doing the exotics any longer I immediately called to see if it was too late to order another and the main lady that used to answer the CS calls (can't recall her name ... just that she was really nice) and was informed they didn't have any of the Ebony veneer left but just happened to have a pair of Fortes in that finish ... the last pair in that finish. Begged her to hold them for me then called my mom and begged even harder for a loan to buy them. Think I may have told this story here many years ago.

 

In retrospect I always thought it was somewhat weird and lucky they had a pair when I called. If I'm remembering correctly the standard wood Fortes were around 1200 but think the premium for these was at least 50% above that. I got the considerable salesperson discount but would imagine most people ordering the custom Klipsch were in a considerably higher tax bracket than I was at the time and probably getting big boys like the KHorns.

 

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19 minutes ago, RobBeamer said:

Glad to hear there's some interest. I'll feel a little less like a dork when I'm posting the "progress" pictures. 

Everyone pretty much enjoys pictures of projects in process.  Post away.

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I like to use Howard's feed n wax. It's a liquid wax that you can find at just about any hardware store. Put it on, let it sit for awhile, then buff it out. Do multiple coats as you see fit. Beautiful speakers! 

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Ended up taking a while before I got back to doing a more thorough job on the Fortes. Even though I could see a number of spots that needed attention I decided to wait a bit because ...

 

  • Was having trouble deciding what I wanted to do with the finish when done (reason I originally started the thread)
  • They looked great from a few feet away and was enjoying them enough as-is I didn't want to pull them from the system
  • Picked up some cosmetically challenged JM Lab/Focal speakers (Electra 926 and 936) that I decided to make a project out of which took a couple of weekends
  • Wasn't sure how far I wanted to go with the Fortes. They've been through a number of moves over the years and, in a addtion to the finish on them needing the redo, they have a few dings here and there. 

Didn't want to run out of warm weather since I needed to do the sanding outside so gave them a second pass a couple of weekends ago and then polishing them with Howard's Feed n Wax this past weekend (finally decided I wanted to go with a more natural finish rather then trying to replicate the original factory lacquer).

 

Believe I mentioned that I didn't touch the finish on the bottoms of the speakers previously so I took a couple of pictures of one before starting "phase 2" to give an idea of what they were looking like previously. The speakers weren't this bad over every square inch but did have little stuff all over. Lacquer was brittle causing it to chip off in places and areas that looked like little white spots that I think was just where the lacquer was separating from the grain. 

 

So a couple of before pics .... the base of one with it sanded past my old attempt at refinishing them and the factory lacquer ... and then one of the bottom with the base on after it was all done. Just to give an easy side-by-side comparison.

 

 

BottomFullUntouched.jpg

BottomCornerUntouched.jpg

BotomStripped2.jpg

BottomDone3.jpg

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Caveats and disclaimers:

I have no real skills related to anything I did with these so don't take any of my descriptions of what I did as an indication of how I think it SHOULD be done. Someone with real woodworking talent (and less of an issue with delayed gratification than myself) could have made them look better and "more new" under close inspection. Also, since these really were not looking good at all as they were I didn't have much to lose. If I were starting with a pair that had been in better condition I might have approached it differently.

 

Gave some thought to trying repair (rather than hide) the corner dings where a bit of veneer was actually missing but had no confidence I could do a good job of it without a lot of effort and one of the plusses of this wood is that the dark stripes are so black it makes touching up little spots with just a black marker (it just blends with the stripes) pretty easy and effective. So I went the easy route.

 

I mostly just used one of the little mouse sanders because 1) I already had one and 2) wanted to have enough control that I didn't accidentally sand too far in any spots.  Because I didn't really know what I was doing I ended up applying uneven pressure around some of the edges which had the affect of exposing the "seams" of the veneer on the edges/corners. Just a tiny bit but enough to annoy me. It was pretty easy to touch up but if I had thought about it during "Phase 1" I would have been more conscious of keeping whatever sanding instrument I was using flat and even which I did try to do this last time.

 

After round one I had done a pretty complete job of getting rid of the nasty lacquer from my old refinish job but there were a good number of spots where I hadn't made it through the original finish because I was a little nervous about going too deep. They still looked good but you could see where it made the finish uneven .... especially from certain angles. Wanted to be more throrough this time and do a better job on the final sanding with the higher grit paper of getting things nice and smooth. 

 

FullStrippedYard.jpg

StrippedHouse2.jpg

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Then put on my plastic gloves and applied the stain. I just dip a microfiber in the stain and then spend a lot of time rubbing it in to make sure it's even. Lots of forceful strokes with the grain so, by the end of this step, there sin't much excess remaining. 

StainContrast.jpg

StainTopOnlly.jpg

StainFullFirstClose.jpg

StainFullFirst.jpg

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After giving the stain just an hour or so to sink in a bit used a clean microfiber to get them mostly dry. Used a fair amount of force with the grain then left them overnight. 

OvernightDry.jpg

Overnightdry2.jpg

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Did a few things before putting them back together .... some a little OCD:

 

  • Touched up the more noticeable spots. Where the veneer chips if you can see the glue that holds it on it doesn't soak up the stain at all and really stands out. I just use a marker on those spots and wipe off the excess.
  • Shiny paint on the cardboard/fiber part of the woofer frame didn't look great so used some satin black vinyl wrap on those.
  • Black paint at the top of bases was a little dingy so used some gloss black vinyl wrap to see what it would look like. Pretty subtle but glad I did it.

OneDone.jpg

TwoDoneFront.jpg

TwoDoneTops.jpg

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