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 Post subject: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 8:14 pm 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
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The Zenith 6s321 is one of the sharpest looking Zenith table radios, unfortunately the whole front surface was originally covered with photofinish, not real veneers, and is as thin as the lacquer. Only the top veneer was real. Consequently, it is prone to scratches and any attempt to strip the original finish will take the original pattern with it. This is a problem for those who try to refinish this radio, as returning it to its original state is virtually impossible.

My 6s321 had large strips of the front ply missing and severe delamination on the base. I had to separate each ply of the bottom panel, sand them independently and glue them back together as a stack. Due to the delamination on the fronts and sides, I had to peel off the outer ply entirely. Because I removed this structurally necessary ply, I thought it would be best to replace it with an extra layer of wood with grain running in the same direction to take its place. I used a spare walnut veneer for that purpose. It is thinner than the original ply, but since walnut is such a robust wood, I figured it was an adequate substitute. On this substrate I added the final veneers.

Here is the radio after the first layer of veneer had been added:

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The veneering technique that I used was quite simple. I coated both the back of the veneer and the substrate with a thin layer of ordinary white wood glue. I poured the glue into a paint try and used a paint roller to apply the glue to ensure that it was applied evenly (pouring the glue directly onto the wood would cause it to swell unevenly). I waited until the glue became translucent and was only slightly tacky to the touch (about an hour). I then applied the veneer to the radio, starting at the center and working outward. The two should cling together. I then pressed the outside an electric iron to melt the glue coated surfaces together. The heat is enough to soften the glue and allow the two pieces to fuse together in seconds. This method requires no clamps, presses, nor vacuum bags (which would not be possible with a curved surface) and secures the veneers far better than rubber cement or various veneer glues. Sadly, I forgot to take photos of this process.

I was able to buy some excellent quartered walnut and burled walnut veneers on eBay and an 1/8" ebony string inlay from an online woodworking store. I softened and flattened the burled walnut veneers by soaking them with glycerin and drying them under pressure between layers of paper towels and paper sheets. The quartered walnut was flat and flexible enough to be used as it was purchased.

I applied the second layer of veneer the same way, except that I carefully cut and fitted all of the veneers together beforehand and used masking tape to hold it together. I then veneered this sheet as if it were a single veneer. When using multiple pieces of veneer like this, they might swell with the moisture of the glue in different directions. When ironing them, it may be necessary to scoot them back together.

Here is the veneer being prepared:

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A single, sheet of burled walnut, large enough for the entire front, was too expensive, so there are three seems between different pieces of the burled wood. I cut the joints around figures in the wood to disguise the seams.

Here is the radio after the final layer of veneer had been added:

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Burled wood is extremely porous. It actually has a spongy texture in places. If you hold it up to the light, you can see straight through it. Consequently, grain filler is a must. The grain filler and stain makes the wood look a little muddy, but the color comes back after the lacquer is added.

Here it is after grain filling:

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Here it is, lacquered and compared to the original:

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The Chassis was thoroughly cleaned and repainted. Here it is being aligned:

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The chassis installed:

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I added an audio jack so it can be connected to an iPod or iPhone:

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Here is the finished radio:

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It was a lot of work, but it was certainly worth it. The veneering really isn't as hard as it seems, even when there are curves and inlays.


Last edited by Gold Dial on Feb Tue 26, 2019 9:09 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 8:29 pm 
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Joined: Feb Mon 25, 2019 12:43 am
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
I seem to be having trouble uploading photos. Does anyone know how to do this?


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 9:12 pm 
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Joined: Feb Mon 25, 2019 12:43 am
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
Never mind. I was able to figure out the problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 9:20 pm 
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Joined: Jan Tue 31, 2012 1:55 am
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Location: Mountains of Mourne. Ireland.
The real-wood veneer certainly adds a touch of class and depth to a photo-finish radio, I don't care what the purists think!

Your choice of cuts/color scheme also works very well... and, I cannot find your seams... :shock:

Very well done, and thanks for posting.
:) Greg.


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 9:34 pm 
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Location: Fallbrook, California
Beautiful job.

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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Tue 26, 2019 11:22 pm 
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Location: Minnetonka, MN 55305
An astounding result and your step by step photo documentation will help many of us with future veneer challenges. Which wood filler product did you use? I've tried several and they don't seem to level the grain as desired and generally don't accept stain readily.

Please consider a separate post to provide detail for your audio input jack. Very nice work and welcome to the forum!

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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 12:35 am 
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I like it. That's what Zenith should have done. Soon you'll be receiving dozens of pathetic 6S321 cabinets needing to receive the special makeover. Mine included! :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 2:11 am 
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Joined: May Fri 10, 2013 4:09 am
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Location: Dallas Tx
Excellent job, time consuming isn't it. That the stuff I like doing.


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 5:36 am 
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Joined: Feb Wed 15, 2017 11:49 pm
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Location: Kingsville, OH 44048
Wow!! What a nice job. I'm with Fred. That's the fun part. It's fantastic to restore a radio and get it operating again but then how much do you actually listen to it? But when you restore the outside and it looks beautiful and you can look at it every day that makes all the work at restoration worth it.

Dick


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 7:15 am 
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Joined: Feb Mon 25, 2019 12:43 am
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
The veneering portion of the work really isn't that hard and is actually quite fun. It also doesn't require many tools or much of an investment. If the outer ply is in good condition, the veneer can be applied directly on that, without a second layer of veneer. If you have a 6s321 in need of refinishing, I would highly encourage you to attempt veneering it with this method, especially if you enjoy this kind of detail work.

I substituted the original mahogany (or whatever the upper wood pattern was) with quartered walnut. I thought it tied in nicely with the top walnut veneer. The contrast in color is greater than the original, but I really like that effect. I figured that since I was rebuilding the cabinet better than the original, I had the authority to override some of the original aesthetic decisions, which I am normally both extremely reluctant to do and never feel the need to do. Perhaps someone else could try a different pairing. It would be fun to see variations of this basic theme.


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 7:22 am 
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Joined: Feb Mon 25, 2019 12:43 am
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
I actually listen to this radio on a near daily basis. The audio input makes these radios far more usable. It is my favorite way to listen to podcasts. I just have to find a podcast on youtube and plug it into the back of the radio.

This video explains how an audio input can be added very easily. I just followed his instructions.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8YeJ0T3DpI&t=2s


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Feb Wed 27, 2019 10:00 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
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Location: Nr London, England, SS1 3PT
Truly a beautiful result on what to me would be difficult I'm sure. Main thing as always is having the desire to do it which I seem to have lost for cabinet refinishing ….wish Fred was nearer :D

Thanks for posting and the 'how to'.

Gary


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Mar Fri 01, 2019 5:04 am 
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Location: Temple, GA
Wow man that looks great!

Excellent work.


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Mar Fri 01, 2019 5:38 am 
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Joined: Nov Mon 05, 2007 11:08 pm
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Location: Calgary Alberta
I think you did a great job on this radio . It really does look very good.
Everything matches like it should have looked when it came from the factory
Dan in Calgary


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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Mar Wed 06, 2019 3:30 am 
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Location: Gretna, Nebraska
Nicely done! I really admire you guys that can take on the complex veneering projects.

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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Mar Wed 06, 2019 4:01 am 
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Exceptionally nice work! How did you cut the burled walnut for those seams?

Rather than use a switch with a simple jack, as shown in that video, it is easier to use a switching jack, as shown in the Peter's thread on this site. I've done it quite a few times and it works well. It is even better if you use shielded two wire cable between the volume control and the jack. Here is Peter's thread: viewtopic.php?t=116118

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 Post subject: Re: Re-veneering a Zenith 6s321
PostPosted: Mar Thu 07, 2019 2:06 am 
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Location: Minneapolis, MN 55414
I’ll consider using a switching jack for my next project. I wasn’t able to find a switching jack for stereo when I was working on this set, so I just used a toggle switch. I find that the switch is easier to use without pulling the radio from the wall than plugging in a cord. I suppose the main benefit of a switching jack is that it is more discreet.

I used three pieces of burled walnut from the same burl. I tried to match the color and texture of the veneers so the contrast would not expose the seems. The seems are curved and follow the contour of the burled figures. One is beneath the center of the dial and the other is below the speaker. They are hard to spot. The seems between the quartered walnut is easier to spot, as the color of the wood changes depending on what direction you view it from and I must have reversed some of the pieces.


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