Formbys finishes?

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jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
16,861
Location
NJ, USA.
Want to buy if anyone has The old Formbys Low Gloss Polyurethane wipe on. Not looking for low gloss Tung oil. 2 different things. I know Formbys was sold to Minwax and they have Satin wipe on poly but again not the same thing. This is one of those things you may have on the shelf and forgot about it. Thanks.
 

monophoto

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Joined
Mar 13, 2010
Messages
2,308
Location
Saratoga Springs, NY
John

Short answer - sorry, don't have what you are looking for.

Like many folks of our age (mid-70's), there was a time when we routinely went to garage sales looking for old furniture that we could refinish and use - both as an 'in thing' to do, and as an economic approach to acquiring furniture required by our growing households. We still have a solid mahogany table in our breakfast room that I think started out as a sewing machine cabinet.

Homer Formby was a professional furniture restorer/refinisher in my home town (Jacksonville, FL). When the furniture recycling craze emerged in the 60's, he started a mail-order business selling some of the products he made for use in his shop, and which were heavily dependent on Tung Oil as well as solvents that today are considered too toxic for normal use. Eventually, that mail order business took off; Formby initially ran it himself, and later the business was later acquired by Kodak. Along the way, the products were cost-reduced (no more Tung Oil), and substitutes were found for the more toxic solvents so that the products could be targeted at the 'gentleman/dilettante refinisher) market of the time (late 70's, onwards). So my impression was that while Formby's original product were rather good, the stuff sold in K-Mart and other mass-market outlets was not exceptional. I don't recall every actually using Formby's products, opting instead for products from the paint store that weren't advertised on TV.
 

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
16,861
Location
NJ, USA.
John

Short answer - sorry, don't have what you are looking for.

Like many folks of our age (mid-70's), there was a time when we routinely went to garage sales looking for old furniture that we could refinish and use - both as an 'in thing' to do, and as an economic approach to acquiring furniture required by our growing households. We still have a solid mahogany table in our breakfast room that I think started out as a sewing machine cabinet.

Homer Formby was a professional furniture restorer/refinisher in my home town (Jacksonville, FL). When the furniture recycling craze emerged in the 60's, he started a mail-order business selling some of the products he made for use in his shop, and which were heavily dependent on Tung Oil as well as solvents that today are considered too toxic for normal use. Eventually, that mail order business took off; Formby initially ran it himself, and later the business was later acquired by Kodak. Along the way, the products were cost-reduced (no more Tung Oil), and substitutes were found for the more toxic solvents so that the products could be targeted at the 'gentleman/dilettante refinisher) market of the time (late 70's, onwards). So my impression was that while Formby's original product were rather good, the stuff sold in K-Mart and other mass-market outlets was not exceptional. I don't recall every actually using Formby's products, opting instead for products from the paint store that weren't advertised on TV.
You are correct with the older people using stuff like this. I happen to still have some of the gloss and what I do is mix my own concoction of gloss and low gloss and use for woodwork. and doors. I have started my home project up again after about a 20 year hiatus and would want the same finish used on the rest of the woodwork. I was taking a shot on different sites to see if anyone had any laying around. If sealed that oil products can last forever. I know I can use flattening agents and the whole nine yards of doing a work around. I am knowledgeable in finishing products to a degree. Just liked the soft look it has on the woodwork and if anyone is ever finishing woodwork or any woodworking product, seriously look into wipe on oils. Has to be the easiest finish ever. No brush marks or failures. Just can not screw it up and is fast. Like I said just a shot in the dark.
 

egnald

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Joined
Jun 9, 2017
Messages
1,543
Location
Columbus, Nebraska, USA
Sorry, I don't have any nor any formulas for what you are looking for. But...

I remember watching Homer Formby on TV back in the late 1970's. Before he went commercial with his product line, he gave out the recipe for his furniture refinisher free during the program. After he went commercial and when his product line was sold any mention of the recipe sort of disappeared.

I have found several references/recollections of his formula, but I can't confirm any of them. I only know that for certain applications it was a wonderful product. I had a very old Victorian Oak Side by side Bookcase and Secretary that an uncle had decided to refinish. Fortunately he only got a small start on it - using sandpaper that took away the wonderful patina on part of one side. The Formby's Furniture Refinisher worked great on it and did exactly what Homer touted, dissolving the old finish and applying it over the sanded areas really did restore the original, beautiful patina. Of course the furniture's original finish was some kind of varnish or nitro-cellulose lacquer and not any of the newer more modern Conversion Varnish or other catalyzed finish.

From what I have been able to find, my best guess is that it was 25% Acetone, 25% Methanol, 25% Toluene, and 25% Dichloromethane. At least here in Nebraska I think I can still buy all of those materials; however, some of them, Methylene Chloride in particular is quite expensive at $60/quart. I'm sure that the concoction would be really harmful as many of the ingredients by themselves are toxic to inhale and can be absorbed through the skin.

Dave
 
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