View Full Version : Removing paint from wood

Steve Ash
01-18-2005, 12:03 AM
I have my great grandfathers bakers cabinet (1900's) sometime in it's life it received a coat of white paint. I want to give this heirloom a facelift and restore it to it's original appearance, which includes removing the old white paint. It appears to be either Oak or Walnut underneath. Anyone have any expierience or suggestions on the best way to accomplish this?

Hal Flynt
01-18-2005, 7:13 PM
I have worked on some antiques in my past and have stripped a lot of paint in doing so.

First let's talk about shop safety, "Read understand...... " Ventilation

Most likely the cabinet was finished in shellac which makes it nice. Varnish could be a bit more work.

This is the way my dad taught me. We used to use "Old Reliable" stripper which was a MEK (Methel Ethyl Ketone) based stripper. I haven't seen Old Reliable and don't see much difference in the MEK types around today. Newspapers on the floor, old paint bruch,rags, sawdust, putty knife, tooth brushes etc. Place the cabinet on the paper and use an old short bristle paint brush to put a good amount of stripper on the paint. LET THE STRIPPER DO THE WORK. Put it on, don't brush it much or it will evaporate, let it sit .(work areas at a time) In 5 mintes of soaking, it should be bubbling and softening (longer is ok, just keep it wet.) When it looks like it's lossened up really well, test gently with the putty knife, but do not put enough pressure on it to mark the wood, just test it. (this is where you learn as you go what's right). Now here is the secret, pick up a handful of sawdust and put it over the wet stuff, enough to basically cover it fully. Now take a rag and push it and the sawdust over the stripper to remove it. Work fast here. If you do this right, the wood will be rather clean underneath and the mess on the floor will be minimul, because the sawdust soked up all the gook. The surface won't be scratshed because the sawdust is, well sawdust. If you need to put some more sawdust and burnishe the area. This probably won't get it all, but it should get the majority of it. Reaply and "rinse with sawdust" as needed. near the end, you may find yourself putting on stripper in the nooks and letting it sit, then work it with a tooth brush to get it ready for a dab of fresh stripper, then a wad of sawdust and wipe it clean. If you let the junk on the floor sit a while it will end up being dry clumps of paint impregnated sawdust that just pick up and go in the garbage (all the solvents have evaporated).

Now if the underlayment was shellac, you can wash it down with paper towels and alcohol and get it really fairly nice looking and then go over it with some fresh garnett shellac and 0000 steel wool to your liking. If varnish, then lacquer may clean it for another coat of varnish.

Good luck, try an inconspicuous are to test. Maybe take a part off and practice on it.

The first chest I did with dad came out fine without ever using a putty knife, other than to test, and no sandpaper either. We steamed out a dent and put on some oil stain to even out the tone and I rubbed in about 3 good coats of 100% Tung Oil over the next month. That was 1982. It's still my dresser today.

Steve Ash
01-18-2005, 9:29 PM
Thanks Hal, I appreciate the answer. I'm looking forward to getting started, hope it is beautiful under all that nasty white paint.