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OVERVIEW

 

Stripping furniture or woodwork can be like a treasure hunt, revealing a beautiful wood surface beneath old paint and varnish. An old finish can be removed mechanically using a sander, but you run the risk of sanding off fine detail and contours in the woodwork. Chemical stripping enables you to soften the finish and then remove it with a scraper. Chemical stripper will remove most painted, shellacked or varnished finishes.

 

 

Skill Level & Time to Complete

 
  • Beginner - 3 hours 
  • Intermediate - 2 hours
  • Advanced - 1 hour
  - Stripping furniture or woodwork can be like a treasure hunt, revealing a beautiful wood surface beneath old paint and varnish. An old finish can be removed mechanically using a sander, but you run the risk of sanding off fine detail and contours in the woodwork. Chemical stripping enables you to soften the finish and then remove it with a scraper. Chemical stripper will remove most painted, shellacked or varnished finishes.
  - Dispose of all rags and chemicals safely when you are finished. Do not store them in your house.
  - Chemical stripper also softens the wood beneath the finish you are removing. Be careful not to scrape or gouge the wood.
  - Do not rush into the project. Start in a small inconspicuous area to make sure the finish will be removed effectively.
  - Do not stop this project midway through. Completely remove the finish from any area you have started.
  - If you have never chemically stripped before, practice on a scrap of wood or something expendable before you tackle a larger project.



SHOPPING LIST


Materials List
   Chemical stripper
   Coarse steel wool
   Lacquer thinner
   Denatured alcohol
   Old newspapers
 
Tools List
   Storage containers
   Stiff putty knife
   Scratch awl
   Paint brush
   Brass wire brush
   Plastic tarps
   Safety glasses
   Rubber gloves

 

1. Spread out a plastic tarp or a heavy piece of cardboard under the area your will be working. This is a very messy project and you don’t want to get any of the chemicals or old finish on anything nice, like a finished floor.
2. Put on your protective eyewear and rubber gloves. Pour some chemical stripper into a jar or small coffee can. Using an old paintbrush, apply the stripper to a small area of old finish. You can brush it on fairly thick (about 1/16”). In about 3 to 5 minutes, the old finish should start to bubble, crackle and pull away from the wood surface.
3. Using a putty knife, scrape the old finish off the wood. Be careful not to scrape too aggressively. The chemicals have softened the wood and you don’t want to gouge it. Wipe off your putty knife on an old newspaper. If this first step does not remove all of the old finish, reapply the chemical stripper and repeat steps 2 and 3.
4. Mix lacquer thinner and shellac thinner (also known as denatured alcohol) together in a clean coffee can using a 1:1 ratio. Take a piece of course steel wool, such as #3 or #4, and soak it in this mixture. Then use it to scrub the stripped area completely clean. You may need to do this several times to remove all remnants of the stripper and the old finish. This is the messy part of the project. Have some rags or paper towels available to wipe off any remaining goop.
5. If you are stripping a piece of furniture or woodwork that has tight crevasses, you should carefully use an awl to remove the stripper and old finish from these areas. Be careful not to gouge the wood.

 

6. You should proceed in small sections, completely removing the finish before proceeding to the next area. If you get too far ahead of yourself, the chemical stripper can dry in place and become harder to remove.
7. If you are trying to strip off paint that was applied directly to bare wood, most likely the paint has seeped into the pores of the wood and it will be very difficult to remove. Some types of wood will make your stripping project even more difficult. For example, oak is very, very porous. You can use a stiff brass brush to help get the paint out of the pores. Even so, you may not be able to remove 100% of the old finish. Be careful when using a stiff brass brush on softer woods. It can tear up the surface of softer woods, such as pine.
8. Once you have successfully removed all of the finish from the woodwork, allow it to dry overnight. The woodwork should then be ready for a new finish that will enhance the beauty of the wood and protect it. If the woodwork has an attractive and even color, you can apply a few coats of varnish. If you find the wood has an attractive grain, but has color variations, you should consider a stain to even out the appearance of the woodwork and then apply varnish.

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