Risky Stripper Prepares for Wipe Stain

By Bernie Bottens | Posted: 12/13/2012 11:11AM


Bernie Bottens woodworkingnetwork wood finishing After a week of silence, I am back. I am certain that all of you have been thoroughly disappointed in me for not having written last week. My apologies. But, I am back on the job this week and have done some more work on the Singer sewing machine project that we began two weeks ago.

Before I write another word I want to take the time to state that using a stripper such as I proposed last installment has some danger to it. Mixing lacquer thinner, acetone, and methanol in equal proportions creates something that is quite flammable.

For the record, this is not a project to do with the garage door down! Yes, I understand that most of you who read this will probably be well versed in the hazards of using flammable solvents. But, at the same time, this article is readily available to anyone on the internet. To all of you, do not do this in a confined space where fumes can build up. The fumes are potentially explosive. You will be creating a lot of them. Use caution and be careful. Also, proper organic vapor filtration is also suggested for you while you work.

Here’s my shopping list for the stripping phase of this project.

1 gallon lacquer thinner

1 quart acetone

1 quart denatured alcohol

Several 2” chip brushes (cream colored hogs hair paint brush)

Lots of cloth rags

Neoprene gloves or heavy nitrile gloves that will resist chemicals

1 pint glue bottle

1 quart cottage cheese container w/ lid

1 plastic washing machine pan – approx 30” square

I put the pan on two saw horses to control the mess. These are the kind that you will find at an appliance store or hardware store. You put them under your washing machine to contain any spills/dripping/leaks. This is well worth the price to keep this sticky, smelly mess contained! Also, I wear my apron while I do this to keep me from becoming a mess.

I take the chip brush and a sharp pair of scissors and cut off half the length of the bristles. This makes the brush stiffer and helps to get down into the pores of the wood to remove the finish

I mix equal parts of the three chemicals in the cottage cheese container. I then pour that mixture into the glue bottle. The glue bottle puts the solvent exactly where I want it. Try to just barely open the tip of the bottle so that a very small stream comes out. Any more than that is a waste.

Now I’m ready to begin. I put on my gloves, apron, and respirator and grabbed my first part. There were a number of them to do. I started with the four pieces that constitute the top of the machine.I squirt the solvent mixture onto the wood and begin to work it around in a circular motion with the brush. I hold the brush perpendicular to the wood surface so that the bristle tips are working straight down into the finish. As it works, the solvent will go from clear to a brown color. That tells you that you are making progress. Don’t be in a hurry. Let the solvent and the brush do the work for you.

I worked one side for a while and then I would take a rag and wipe up the mess. Then, I’d turn the piece over and do the same thing on the other side. It will take several applications to get all the finish dissolved and wiped up. Don’t stop the process until the rag stays clean when you wipe off the solvent. As a final wipe down, I dipped a clean rag into the solvent in my cottage cheese container so that I had a saturated rag to use on my final wipe down.

You will need something to use as a clothesline to hang your dirty rags on to dry,Do not throw wet rags into the garbage or into a pile and leave them there. They are exceedingly flammable and need to be taken care of so that a fiery disaster does not develop. I always hang up these saturated ragsover night so that the solvents can evaporate out of them before I dispose of them.

As my buddy Frank, the Duke of DuraVar, said last issue, this case was probably originallyfinished with shellac. I think he was correct. My solvent did a great job melting the finish and that’s because I took the effort to make sure that my solvent had a good dose of alcohol in it. Remember, the only solvent that wets shellac is alcohol. (Well, okay…stripper attacks it successfully too.)

All the other chemicals in the solvent may be more or less just along for the ride. However, there are other things within the finish that need to be attacked and removed as well. A certain amount of the wiping stain is the obvious example of those other things. The lacquer thinner and acetone will attack those.

I have a bit more work to do to get everything stripped. After that, I need to do some repair work on the two drawer cases. They are in bad shape. I need to do some re-gluing on those.

By next week I hope to have the wipe stain made up and ready to go. But my biggest concern will be dealing with the water damage. The four top pieces look pretty bad. There was water sitting on those surfaces for a long time.

The water easily got through the shellac and did its own damage to the veneer. It has stained the veneer and there are a number of seams in the veneer that have opened up because the glue has failed. Those will have to be re-glued. Following that, the question will be whether I will need to bleach the top pieces to get rid of the water stains. Stay tuned and we will find out together.

Until next time…spray on!

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About the Author

Bernie Bottens

Bernie Bottens (WoodworkingNetwork.com/blogs)writes and teaches on the subject of wood and wood finishing in industrial woodworking. He and his wife, Carol, live in Vancouver, WA. Bernie has been teaching wood finishing to shop owners, shop foremen, spray technicians and finishers all over Oregon, southwest Washington, and northern California for the past 9 years. Prior to that, he owned his own cabinet shop. His shop credentials include apprenticing and becoming a journeyman exhibit builder. Before that he taught in the public schools for 20 years. Bernie is the owner of Kapellmeister Enterprises, Inc. and Kap Coatings Consulting. Reach him at kapenterprises@msn.com.

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Bernie Bottens    
Vancouver, WA  |  January, 03, 2013 at 01:14 PM

Vince, Okay, you got me! I didn't repair the veneer first as I had originally planned. Time got away from me and the need to move forward so that I could continue to write became an issue. I waited until I had the pieces stripped to do that. As far as a dip tank, I suppose that there are large stripping operations that use such a thing. The guys that I hang out with use a metal tray of some kind just to keep the mess contained. My imitation of that was to buy the plastic washing machine tray at The Home Depot. It really saved me from making a mess in my garage as I worked on this project. And, F.Y.I., there is a smaller version of a tray to be found in the plumbing department There is a similar tray used under a water heater. It would be good for small projects. Yes, your technique of using a regular stripper would be another way to proceed. I just tried to offer an alternative to that. Both of my mentors mentioned the lacquer thinner/acetone/methanol version. I decided to try it just for the experience of doing something different because both my guys volunteered that information out of the blue. If I were to use a methylene chloride-based stripper from Home Depot, etc, I would have proceeded exactly as you suggested. The plastic keeps the methylene chloride, a very volatile chemical from evaporating. Thus, its effect is maximized. As far as knowing the difference between a dust mask and a respirator, your guess is a good as mine! I have no idea. I think that the pros know the difference. Guys working in my area all use proper respirators. Whether or not the filters are fresh and functional is another matter that I don't want to get

Vince Bober    
Hew Hampshire  |  January, 03, 2013 at 01:23 PM

Bernie, I have followed with interest the subject project. You are correct in assuming that amateurs will read your articles. I am one of them who has restored vintage wood boats and vintage veneered furniture. I respectfully disagree with some of your approach. Wouldn't a professional refinish shop use a dip tank to remove finishes? You mentioned in the first article that that you were going to re-glue joints and repair lifted veneer prior to stripping, yet in the second article, after stripping, you talked about making these repairs. Aren't the glue surfaces very difficult to properly clean after stripping, especially under the lifting veneer? I would also be concerned about damaging the lifted veneer. For one piece of furniture, why not use a commercial stripper from Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store (if you are fortunate enough to have a local store), apply it according to directions and then cover it with plastic(saran) wrap and let the stripper do the hard work. The shortened bristle chip brush is great for intricate and curves surfaces, but, as an amateur I have no problem with carefully using a properly sharpened scraper on flat surfaces. A last remark, do most amateurs (or even some industrial workers) understand that a respirator is not a dust mask? Thank you for reading this. Respectfully, Vince Bober


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