How I strip wood. (and why)
Since this is a hot topic right now and a call went out for Housebloggers to document this topic, AND since I am in the middle of this process all over AGAIN, I shall give some tips and a synopsis of why I do what I do.
The first thing I ever stripped was a door in 1996. I used a belt sander but it wouldn't get into the panels so I used paint stripper. I rubbed the goop off with steel wool and paint thinners. Paint thinners does not raise the grain of the wood like water will.
The next thing I stripped was my entire Kitchen. I started with paint stripper but it was messy and took way too long. Then I heard about using a heat gun! So I bought one with an adjustable heat dial. If I set the dial to #1 I could dry my hair and if I set it at #10 I could toast marshmallows! I generally set it a little above #8 so I don't burn the wood.
After the kitchen came my dining room. Somewhere between the kitchen and dining room I started using furniture refinisher to remove the paint stripper before using thinners. This can get expensive and for some reason you don't find refinisher any more (what are those welts on my hand? Did my finger just fall into my coffee?)The heat gun was useful for stripping the glue and tar paper from the floor too before sanding.
By the time I got to doing some more doors I had the routine down to heat gun, then paint stripper, then furniture refinisher and steel wool, then paint thinners and steel wool. Then stain and urethane.
THEN WE BOUGHT THE "CRACKHOUSE"
There was so much wood to strip at the crackhouse and the heat gun was relatively slow so we tried a "Speedheater" aka "The Silent Paint Remover" and this made stripping flat surfaces so much more pleasant and quicker however, a heat gun was still needed to deal with detailed moldings and situations where the SPR just isn't efficient. We tried a number of different scrapers over the years but I am down to these three as my favorites.
The flat scraper is a little flexible and yes that is a screwdriver with a sharpened head (since you can't find screws to use it with anymore) for fine flake removal.
The next step after stripping paint was discovered after realizing that furniture refinisher was hard to find and reading everything I could find about shellac.The original wood finish will now determine my next step.
If the original wood finish was shellac I will rub it down with steel wool and alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the shellac and will lift off most paint flakes. If you wipe up the goo as you go this is quite a time saver. I may have to zap some stubborn ones with the heat gun and use the screwdriver scraper.
I won't use paint stripper if I can help it unless an item can be coated in the stuff and sealed in a plastic bag so the the stripper doesn't evaporate, or dropped in a can with a lid like "ye old coffee can o'paint stripper" that I keep in the basement and top up every time I strip hardware.
I use coarse steel wool with the alcohol. When the wood surface is dry I sand with 80 grit then 100 or 120 grit sand paper to lift off any remaining paint. I then rub the surface with an alcohol soaked paper towel to remove and spread thin any remaining shellac. Any flecks of white paint are dabbed with raw umber colored paint or you could dab it wth a black marker.
To finish the wood I recommend three coats of shellac purely for depth of color. You can apply urethane or spar varnish over the shellac if you want. You can tint shellac with aniline dye too. I did this for our dining room floor. This is what they used to put on old furniture. If you strip old furniture you often remove the color and can't really replace it with stain. Rub your final finish with wax and fine steel wool then buff it and you are done. I recommend waxing floors if you are going to be creating a lot of dust because it makes sweeping them with a brush so much easier, the dust slides off! It also makes the floors very slippery though.
If the original wood finish was painted over fresh wood I say "SCREW IT" and sand and paint the wood again after stripping. It is way too much work to sand the surface clear of paint, especially if the molding is detailed. I am dealing with this right now in the bedroom. I say "Yay Less work for me!!"
If you want to preserve the look of wood, color wash the wood with a wiping of tan or brown paint so that some grain shows through and apply 3 - 5 coats of shellac. Our entry hall was done this way to prevent it from looking blotchy because I couldn't get all the original paint off easily. I discovered while stripping the paint that this was in fact the way it was originally finished although it was colored with a red mahogany tinted shellac over a pale green base. You can also rub the wood using artist oil paints. These contain the same pigments that are in stains and can be thinned with paint thinner. They will take longer to dry than conventional stain. Colors to use are Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna.
I will post a bit more about this subject soon because I am in the middle of dealing with this.
This is the top part of our mantle in the bedroom. The bottom has been finished this week and looks really good. I will post some before and after pictures with the next wood refinishing report. In the meantime I have to devise a way to mask the large burn mark and the numerous cigrette burns in this piece of wood. Since nobody could offer up any suggestions in my last post I shall follow the advice of "Old Blue Eyes" (Frank Sinatra to you young puppies out there) and "Do it myyyyyy wayyyyyy".