Removing Paint or Varnish
Step by Step Procedure

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The Procedure


1. For best results work in warm weather. A good working temperature range is 65 to 85 degrees. Try to work in the shade even if it means moving the work as the sun moves.

2. Remove as much hardware as possible from the piece. Use masking tape to cover any hardware that can't be removed.

3. Wear chemical-resistant gloves and safety goggles to avoid contact with the skin and eyes. Chemicals in paint removers can be painful and irritating if splashed into the eyes or onto the skin.

4. When you're ready to use the paint remover, STOP! Read the entire label before opening the container. Some removers should be shaken by hand before use. Cover the container with a cloth and open the cap slowly to allow for the gradual release of pressure buildup.

5. Carefully pour the remover into a metal container. Replace the cap tightly each time you pour some remover. Store the container in a cool place when not in use. Dip your brush into the metal can and bring out a generous helping of remover.

6. Don't apply the remover as you would paint. In fact, don't "brush" on the remover in the usual sense; rather, "lay" it on in much the same way as you would ice a cake. Working in one direction, preferably on a flat surface, a pply the remover to an area of about two square feet at a time. If you are working on a vertical surface, such as a table leg, start at the top and work down. In about five minutes you will see the remover working--the surface will begin to peel and blister.

7. Don't try to rush the remover. The time required for the stripper to remove the old finish varies among products. The label will specify the time required, but generally it ranges from 15 to 20 minutes. As the stripper penetrates the old finish, it forms airtight "layers." If you try to rush the scraper, the result will be a sticky goo that is next to impossible to remove.

8. While the remover is working, bide your time. Get some fresh air, away from the work site, to reduce your exposure to the paint-removing chemicals. You may even want to polish handles, rings, or other ornamental hardware while you're waiting fo r the remover to do its work.

9. When the remover has done its work, it's time to remove the resulting sludge. A gentle scraping with a dull putty knife will take the residue right off. Scrape away from you, and go with the grain to minimize the effect of any scratches made wit h the blade. On carved or grooved surfaces, a toothpick, coarse twine, or old toothbrush can greatly aid the removal process. Wipe off your tools frequently on newspaper.

10. The object is to remove all the old finish from one section at a time. The first section or two will be a trial-and-error process until you determine how many coats of paint you are trying to remove. On very old furniture with many coats of pa int, several soak-and-scrape operations may be required. Wait the full time for each layer you add, and be equally generous with each successive coat.

11. As you remove the paint, wrap the residue in plenty of newspaper. Place the newspaper outside in the open air, so the remover will evaporate completely before sealing all materials in one of the clean metal containers for disposal. After removing the bulk of the sludge from the piece, use the old rags or burlap to wipe away any remaining residue. Place these outdoors as well.

12. All traces of the stripper must be removed for the new finish to adhere properly. To remove the last residue of stripper or old finish it will be necessary to wipe the piece with a rag, stiff-bristle scrub brush, or steel wool pad, rubbing with the grain. This is especially true for open-grained woods like walnut, oak, or mahogany. Allow the piece to dry overnight before continuing to refinish.

Setting Up Your Work Site, Cleanup and Disposal


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