Finding and restoring old furniture is a great hobby and an inexpensive way to accent your home with pieces you can’t buy at a local big box store. You can find old furniture at auctions and yard sales or even for free if you keep your eyes open on trash day but if you want to get items cheap it will probably mean repair and refinishing is required.
Repairs will mean matching of wood and replicating parts but to know whether your wood is in good condition you first need to remove the many layers of finish and paint that have been applied over the years.
If the piece was made prior to 1970 then you have a likelihood that some of the finishes contain lead paint. For this reason it is important that you work safely while removing old paint.
The best way to remove old paint and finishes is stripping. Liquid and Gel strippers are applied with a brush to the surface you want to strip and allowed to work for a few hours before scraping clean with plastic putty knives and smaller scrapers.
Stripper is especially useful when removing paint and finishes from intricate areas with small wood details. Although the first application of stripper may not remove all of the paint you can spot strip over and over again until all of the paint has loosened enough that it can be scraped out with a plastic tool or brushed out with a small brass brush.
Brass brushes are better to use on wood then steel or plastic tooth brushes because they won’t damage the wood. Plastic brushes may also melt in the stripper.
Applying The Paint Stripper To Your Furniture
The first thing you need to do before you start stripping paint off your furniture is washing it. Using a general purpose cleaner remove all wax and grease buildup.
Stripper is very caustic and will damage your floors so you want to work with it outside. Place a plastic tarp under the furniture so you can catch all of the paint that you strip off. You will also want some empty cardboard boxes to put the paint in. Using a scraper you can clean it on the edge of the box and then throw the box away when you are done.
Rubber gloves and safety glasses are also a must and you want to wear old clothes. Even if you have old clothes its not a bad idea to wear an apron. If you don’t have an apron then make one out of the plastic tarp and some duct tape.
Read the directions on your stripper. It should list the working time and how to apply the stripper.
A good rule of thumb is to not agitate the stripper as you put it on.
With a brush using one stroke you want to apply about 1/4 inch of stripper to the entire surface or the part that you are working on.
Allow the stripper to work for a few hours. if areas begin to dry then use a spray bottle to lightly mist the surface this will extend the working time. Make sure not to wet it so much that water is dripping you just need to keep the surface wet.
After the surface has bubbled up you can begin testing areas with your plastic scraper. Once ready then you can scrape off the old paint and place it in a cardboard box. Clean your scraper on the side of the box as you work.
Applying A Second Coat
You will most likely need to apply 2 or 3 coats of stripper after your first scraping. Follow the same method and allow the stripper to do the work.
Eventually the stripper will remove the paint and you will not need to sand the surface.
It is important to neutralize the stripper so that it will not remain in the wood and cause problems with the finish you will apply.
Wash the surface with clean water and mild soap. By using a green scrubber pad you will be able to get all of the stripper off. Don’t be shy with the water the wood surface will have a raised grain that you will need to lightly sand this is not a problem
After the furniture is clean and dry you can use traditional methods for finishing and restoration.
Stripping your wood furniture is the best method for removing many layers of finish and paint. The process will reduce the amount of sanding and scraping of manual methods to just a half day by using stripper.
Although this method is generally safe you must protect your eyes and skin. Stripper is very caustic and will defiantly cause eye damage if it gets in your eyes. It will also cause chemical burns on your skin.
Work slow and safe and your job will be completed in just a few hours.