Stripping furniture: points to ponder, expert tips

When you're thinking about stripping an old piece of wooden furniture, there are a few ways to go about it. Here are three points to ponder.

Stripping furniture: points to ponder, expert tips

1. Clean up your bargain finds

  • Sometimes all that's needed to make a grimy garage-sale bargain look like new is a thorough clean.
  • Mix equal parts of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits.
  • Warm the mixture slightly in a double boiler, then rub it onto your find's surface with some cheesecloth, sacking or towelling, depending on how dirty the surface is.
  • After removing the bulk of the dirt with your mixture, buff the piece with a soft, clean cloth.

2. Try this for a quick new finish

  • If the finish on your piece of furniture is showing a little wear and tear but is otherwise in good condition, restore it with furniture refinisher.
  • Refinisher is sold in restoration or woodworking shops.
  • This chemical melts and rejuvenates the existing finish without destroying the patina.
  • Brush some on, wait the recommended time, then rub the piece with a soft cloth.
  • The reworked finish will be lighter in colour, but all the scratches and dirt will be gone.

3. Figure out your solvent solution

  • An old but otherwise solid finish can be rejuvenated with a dose of solvent.
  • First identify the finish that you're dealing with and the solvent that softens it.
  • Brush on your solvent, let it stand until most of it has evaporated, then rework the finish with a soft cloth.
  • Always test a hidden spot first, and be prepared to strip and refinish your piece if your first choice of solvent doesn't work.

If you do choose to strip your wood furniture, take note of these expert tips:

  • The safest place to work with chemical stripper is outside, in the open air.
  • If you do have to work indoors, wear a respirator and open the windows to avoid inhaling the strong fumes.
  • Stripping a piece of furniture can take hours, so it's best to make yourself comfortable. If possible, stand the item on a steady platform so you're not bending your back as you work. A more comfortable position will also make you less likely to miss any nooks and crannies or suffer from backaches.
  • Always keep water handy to rinse off your skin if you splash any stripper on it.

Consider these points and follow these expert tips when you decide to strip your furniture, and you'll be more likely to come out with clean and beautiful results.

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