Part 5 of 6 - Refinishing
friendly version of Tip - (PDF)
Help with Downloading
most dreaded job in all of wood finishing is refinishing -
the stripping off of an ancient, ruined finish in preparation
for the application of a new one.
it or not, when done properly, it can also be one of the most
rewarding jobs in wood finishing. Somewhere under those 37
layers of cracked varnish and wrinkled paint is the patina…a
thin layer of beautifully aged wood, just on the surface of
your object. If you can carefully strip off the old finish
without disturbing this delicate layer, your refinished project
will take on a glow and warmth that only the passing years
can bestow on the wood.
There are only two ways to strip old finishes from wood -
chemically and mechanically. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
stripping is the messiest of the two. With this method, the
old finish is coated with a substance that softens it and
turns it to a “goo”. Then, you usually remove this “goo” with
a putty knife or scraper and try not to get it all over yourself
in the process. It may not be “fun”, but chemical stripping
is the best way to remove a finish without disturbing the
“patina” of the wood. Only the finish comes off - not the
stripping with scrapers, sandpaper and sanders is a lot less
messy and (if you use a belt sander) sometimes faster. However,
you'll have to be extremely careful not to scrape or sand
into the patina of the wood. If you do get down to the wood
and you find that it starts getting lighter and lighter in
color as you go, STOP! When lighter wood shows, it means you've
cut through the patina…and that's not good!
one method or the other is usually inadequate for most refinishing
jobs. Most refinishers use both methods in varying degrees,
depending on the project. Let's look at each.
to Chemical Stripping Process