Yes, Virginia, there really is a Homer Formby. He may be a television commercial personality but he's not fictional--like those two actors who play Bartles and Jaymes in that wine cooler commercial.
Formby is on the road almost half the year, giving interviews, appearing on call-in shows and generally making his presence felt. He stopped in to tell me about his latest products a week or so ago.
The latest from the Formby factory in Olive Branch, Miss. (just over the line from Memphis, Tenn.) is Formby's Furniture Face Lift.
It's a three-step kit that restores a permanent shine and removes minor blemishes from worn wood--without refinishing it. It sounds to me like the mild liquid rubbing compounds that I've used to remove dullness from automobile finishes.
"When I appear on radio and TV call-in shows, many people ask if there is a way to restore the shine to worn, dull furniture, short of all-out refinishing," he explained. "There really wasn't a product on the market that I liked, so I set out to develop one."
The kit, available for $16 to $18 in home centers and hardware stores, packages three components in one easy-to-pick-up carton: a cleansing liquid that removes dirt and wax buildup, a buffing cream that removes water rings and similar minor blemishes and a finish that restores the shine. The kit includes all necessary applicators. One caution: Make sure the wood you're restoring is dry; the final coat will take a long time to dry if it has any moisture in it.
The 62-year-old Formby--the fourth generation of his family to be a cabinetmaker--tested the product thoroughly with consumers before putting it on the market.
"Studies conducted for Formby's by an independent research firm shows that 88% of all American households have furniture that could be restored with Furniture Face Lift," he said. Unlike some products which have harsh chemicals, the new product can be applied inside the home and is therefore suitable for paneling and cabinets.
When it comes to outside wood finishing, Homer is the first to admit that his company is out of the picture: "Our products are strictly for interior use. There are many water-seal products that are great for outdoor furniture, decks and similar applications."
He has a suggestion for anyone seeking to lighten weather-darkened wood: Use household liquid bleach, swabbing it on full strength. It will probably take a couple of applications. When you're done, rinse your oak park bench or whatever with water, let it dry and apply the water seal (Thompson's Water Seal is one of the most widely used) with a garden sprayer.
"Be sure to apply plenty of water seal to the underside of the furniture and especially to to the the end grain," Formby said.
Other hints from Formby: Use toothpaste to remove water rings on table tops; use fingernail polish remover to rid furniture of paint specks; use wax or liquid shoe polish to cover up scratches in wood.
"The life and beauty of wood is really the oil content in it," he concluded. "Like human skin, wood needs natural oil to make it beautiful. Central heating, light, changes in humidity can all rob oil from wood. Oil your furniture about once or twice a month with lemon-oil furniture treatment to keep them fresh."