Grundig vintage console restoration

Do you have a vintage console in need of some TLC? This Grundig vintage console had lived a great life, but its age was starting to show. I decided to bring it back to life, and make sure it goes on entertaining for another 50+ years.

First of all, I want to mention the electronics were in pretty great shape on this unit. I have looked into repairing vintage console electronics – a heady mix of tubes, capacitors, resistors, and sometimes complex electronic schematics – don’t recommend trying to do this yourself unless (a) you are already pretty familiar with electronic circuit board repair and (b) don’t mind too much if it doesn’t work out. In other words, if it’s a piece you want to keep and don’t want to risk it, hire a professional vintage audio repair shop – like Innovative Audio in Surrey (highly recommended, I love these folks).

So, back to the cabinet. A beautiful teak veneer, but with plenty of well-loved dings and scratches and discolouration, plus a fairly deep burn mark. I’d like to think this thing had plenty of cocktails and cigars resting on it during the 60s.

I started this mid-century modern furniture restoration like most others, cleaning down the wood with naphtha, then wiping down with mineral spirits, before re-evaluating. With all the electronics inside the unit, I bagged over and taped all the electronics to keep out dust and chemicals. But I was still concerned about using chemical stripper, so went straight to light sanding (180 grit) to remove the failing finish and remove light scratches. Heavier dings took a little epoxy putty filling, before resanding.

That burn I mentioned? My usual approach would be oxalic acid, but I didn’t want to do the whole unit. So, in this case I went a little home DIY and used some whitening toothpaste, rubbing at the burn mark using steel wool (00 grade) and keeping the area slightly moist so the toothpaste wouldn’t dry entirely before removing again. Two or three applications, rubbing, and then removing, along with a little more sanding and the area came up nicely.

With the cabinet sanded and ready, I decided I didn’t want to spray any products. Usually I would be spraying sealer, toner, and lacquer. But I didn’t want to risk getting product into the electronic area, and didn’t want to remove all the stereo components (old things have a habit of not working again). So I went for wipe-on products only.

I started with a light stain – Varathane Colonial Maple – to even out the colours. Just a very light wipe on and rub off. Carefully looking for spots where the wood might take the stain unevenly. Then I used a danish oil that polymerizes, in other words cures fully dry, in order to enhance the grain a little but also ensure I could clear coat it later once dry with a durable finish.

I finished the cabinet with a wipe on polyurethane from Minwax. Again, not my usual route, but I did not want to spray. In this case two coats went on very evenly, and gave a smooth no-rub out finish.

This beauty shipped off a few days later to live in the offices of a non-profit in Vancouver with a number of staff that appreciate good furniture, and good music!

Step by Step

  • Clean with naphtha and steel wool (grade 00)
  • Wipe down with mineral spirits and reassess
  • Sanded with 180 grit, then 220 to remove surface scratches and even out colour
  • Epoxy putty repair two larger dings
  • Toothpaste scrub burn mark with steel wool, remove with warm water and quickly dry – repeated 3 times until the burn mark disappeared
  • Light stain rubbed off fast, to even out the colour
  • Danish oil wipe on, to enhance wood grain and add depth – let dry for one week to fully polymerize
  • Two coats of wipe on polyurethane

Final result

Overall, the cabinet came out shining and beautiful. Although it was a very unorthodox approach, instead of using the more typical MCM refinishing schedule including strip, sand, seal, tone, lacquer. But I didn’t want to risk the electronics, and using stains and wipe on polyurethane allowed me to avoid that route while still getting the desired colour and durability. I’ve since learnt I could have used a brush-on lacquer as an alternative, and might try that out next time.

Hope you enjoyed learning a little about the process behind this restoration, and feel motivated to find and restore one of these beautiful vintage stereo consoles.mice