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Raw Birch..... What’s your finishing secret sauce?


Don McPhee
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So I’m looking at a pair of brand new inThe crates circa 70s/80s La Scala’s. They are finished in Raw birch, as I understand these are or were sold as entry level price point La Scala’s however I actually find this finish very clean and sexy but I’m wondering to preserve and protect the finish and put a little zip in the finish what most people end up doing to finish them off

 

Cheers

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The Tung oil or a Watco would be fine. You will run into difficulties (or extra steps) if you try and darken them up. 

 

BTW, they may have started their life as raw birch, but over the decades someone may have put a coat of "something" on them. If it is a lacquer, varnish or urethane, then the oil (tung, watco, danish etc) cannot be easily applied. Keep this in mind when you are cleaning the wood prior to oiling them. 

 

Good luck and congratulations, 

-Tom

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Tung oil will completely dry to a hard finish over time. Much like a synthetic finish of polyurethane, the molecules cross link upon drying, making a hard, durable finish. Thinning with a thinner would be recommended, as it will help the finish penetrate the wood better, and a few thin coats will look superb. Boiled linseed oil would also work, but it never completely hardens and will darken a bit more over time.

 

Bruce

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7 hours ago, Don McPhee said:

So I’m looking at a pair of brand new inThe crates circa 70s/80s La Scala’s. They are finished in Raw birch, as I understand these are or were sold as entry level price point La Scala’s however I actually find this finish very clean and sexy but I’m wondering to preserve and protect the finish and put a little zip in the finish what most people end up doing to finish them off

 

Cheers

 

2 hours ago, rockhound said:

Good question I have a set of Heresy Decorators that I need to re-oil as they are looking a little "dry".

 

I use a product called 'Circa 1850 Terra Nova NaturOil' on all the wood around here. Usually found at hardware stores.

 

Before that I used 'Star' Wood Furniture Polish. Sadly, the real deal that came in blue bottles is no longer made. :(

 

Wb

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My vote is for satin spar polyurethane. I like a dull finish that allows all the beauty of the wood to come through and not be distracted with glare from a shiny finish. Birch will darken a fair amount with this and polyurethane will also help strengthen the wood at the sharp corners and be more resistant to chunks picking out on the edges. I like Watco for Walnut and Oak and it is recommended by Klipsch if you have oiled cabinets from the factory.

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For the type of custom birch cabinet-grade plywood used on the LaScalas from  that time frame, I would HIGHLY suggest a number of coats of semi-gloss polyurethane for the finish.  Semi-gloss finishes actually are more durable than high gloss finishes and much easier to "touch-up" over time is any scratches occur.  By using polyurethane, you are providing excellent water resistance to the cabinets, also.  WIth Semi-gloss urethane, in multiple THIN coats with light very fine grit sanding between coats, you CAN end up with the ability to "FEEL" the wood grain when  swiping a hand across the finished panels, and it just has a better appearance to ME. 

 

NOW...for the rest of the story:  Semi-gloss is basically high-gloss with silica added into it to reduce the gloss when the finish cures.   In order to have nice even application APPEARANCE after it cures you MUST continually stir the stuff during application to keep the silica within in it, in solution, in order to achieve the best results.  I actually just BRUSH it on...never spraying it.  BUT there is a reason I brush it on always WITH THE GRAIN...because the brush bristle tips will work the finish into the surface wood fiber better, giving it stronger adherence to the surface.  After the first two coats, then that is not so much of an issue.  Another thing, urethanes are also DUST MAGNETS when wet...so ensure this is done in a dust free environment!  By brushing it on, especially in the first one or two coats, and you will find that it makes a world of difference when lightly-sanding between each coat!

 

An added convenience when using urethane finishes is that you can get them in stain-tints, such as "honey-pine"...which looks GREAT on birch plywood!...and on raw oak!

 

Oil finishes are not my cup of tea for birch veneered plywood...fine for darker fine veneers, but not for birch plywood....IMHO!  Why?  Well take a piece of birch plywood and test it with an oil finish, including the sanded edges where the plys are showing!...you will find that the sanded plywood edge where the plys show will be very LOUD...and there are lots of those showing on those LaScalas!  So, if you don't want those plywood edges to be a visual attractant...no oil finishes is the answer....IMHO!  I know...you CAN cover SOME or MOST of those showing edges with birch veneer edge banding strips added to them (HINT! HINT!)...but not ALL of them (and have them flush with adjacent wood at the joints, such as the top panels)...the bottom line is...what do YOU want them to look like?  And what do YOU want other peoples' eyes attracted to, the plys?...or the panel surfaces?

 

 This is an oak veneered plywood LaScala custom build with "honey pine" semi-gloss poly-urethane finish applied:

 

1423129748_solooakLaScalanogrillnotebookmatchdetail.thumb.jpg.ad676ab2210df21a5c8bc11d770d3770.jpg

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1 hour ago, Wolfbane said:

 

I vote for Raw and maintained.

 

Wb

This is the method I've used over the 40-plus years I've enjoyed my 'Scalas, partly because I appreciate the "natural look" of the raw birch cabinet and partly because I lack the confidence in treating something as large as the 'Scala.  I def wouldn't want to screw them up, cosmetically or audibly.  Mine have held up relatively well considering the lack of any applied protection, which can be attributed to the very controlled environment they exist in.  To the OP:  whatever you decide, hope you enjoy the LS as much as many of these Forum members do.

~

 

IMG_0014.jpg

IMG_0015.jpg

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A couple of years ago I bought a pair of Heresy's from @scallywagger77 for my Super Heresy project.

While in his listening room, I saw  his amazing pair of Birch LaScala's. Larry once worked at Klipsch, and built these himself.

 

Larry might want to comment about how he has maintained the finish, but to my eye they are perfect. They have such a wonderful warm glow that the birch has taken on as it has aged. Beautiful!!

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1 hour ago, TFR1 said:

A couple of years ago I bought a pair of Heresy's from @scallywagger77 for my Super Heresy project.

While in his listening room, I saw  his amazing pair of Birch LaScala's. Larry once worked at Klipsch, and built these himself.

 

Larry might want to comment about how he has maintained the finish, but to my eye they are perfect. They have such a wonderful warm glow that the birch has taken on as it has aged. Beautiful!!

Larry and I worked there at the same time.  His LaScalas are most likely "employee specials" and were shot with a few coats of sealer, and then with around four coats of clear gloss laquer...just like my "employee specials" HDBL "flame twins" were done!  Just like most employees, he probably found really nice panels to use that just happened to be able to end up making a really nice matched pair!  Here is a lousy pic of one of my flame twins, followed with a pic of Larry taken at a BBQ event  "somewhere in the countryside" around Hope, AR...back in those days he worked at Klipsch!

 

698792837_flametwinleftKA.thumb.jpg.5b8e3d1c7802bfb7e6ffa6b06b8ae1d3.jpg

 

PICT0180.thumb.JPG.ed5e3a00ab77ef5535dcfb457186a210.JPG

Larry second from left watching the food cook like a buzzard waiting for something to die!

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, scalawag said:

This is the method I've used over the 40-plus years I've enjoyed my 'Scalas, partly because I appreciate the "natural look" of the raw birch cabinet and partly because I lack the confidence in treating something as large as the 'Scala.  I def wouldn't want to screw them up, cosmetically or audibly.  Mine have held up relatively well considering the lack of any applied protection, which can be attributed to the very controlled environment they exist in.  To the OP:  whatever you decide, hope you enjoy the LS as much as many of these Forum members do.

~

 

IMG_0014.jpg

IMG_0015.jpg

 

Got to love that cinder block you've got in your photo. Somehow if I tried that here it would land on my foot in the middle of the night! ;)

 

Wb

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F5FA8600-1975-4EF0-B55F-1DD5949D813A.thumb.jpeg.8c377739d8a403c2baef56c91ed574e6.jpegimage.thumb.jpg.f58ef3a44386ee7914c186f0ab4addb4.jpgBirch wood Casey tru oil it’s sold as a gun stock refinishing oil .look it up you can use as few or many Coates as you want to get your desired finish.I refinished my 1985 fortes last winter and they turned out beautiful.For further protection you can use renaissance wax look it up used in museums on many things for protection.

Edited by Jive talkin
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5 hours ago, Jive talkin said:

F5FA8600-1975-4EF0-B55F-1DD5949D813A.thumb.jpeg.8c377739d8a403c2baef56c91ed574e6.jpegimage.thumb.jpg.f58ef3a44386ee7914c186f0ab4addb4.jpgBirch wood Casey tru oil it’s sold as a gun stock refinishing oil .look it up you can use as few or many Coates as you want to get your desired finish.I refinished my 1985 fortes last winter and they turned out beautiful.For further protection you can use renaissance wax look it up used in museums on many things for protection.

or just use birchwood-casey's gun stock wax, instead....after all...ya'know??

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