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If there was one thing for me that has consistently transformed the appearance of an old wooden item into a classy looking vintage item that someone would be proud to display in their home, it would be boiled linseed oil– technically known as the Picker’s Secret Magic Wood Restoration Juice. Read More:
I read a tip in a George Grotz book--denatured alcohol. Lightly rub the grimy surface of old wooden furniture. Use it sparingly. It will soften the varnish or finish, so you need to let it dry, but you wouldn't believe the difference. I did a test spot on our oak sideboard. It lightened it up considerably, but I liked the look of the dark oak, and decided not to do the whole thing. The test spot darkened back in a year or so, and you can't see it at all. We did the top of a Minnesota sewing machine and it was beautiful. I've used linseed oil to condition other pieces, and a mix of 1/3 mineral spirits (or turpentine), 1/3 linseed oil and 1/3 varnish to finish pieces we stripped.