To remove paint and varnish from woodwork, you’ll need a semi-paste and liquid stripper. Before moving on to this step in your refinishing project, here are a few things to keep in mind: Work in small sections, let the compound do the work and make sure all the paint is removed.
Strippers are messy and potentially harmful. Lay a drop cloth down to avoid spillage, and open windows for ventilation. For safety precautions, wear long sleeves, gloves and protective eyewear. The optimal room temperature should be between 60 to 70 degrees.
For stripping pieces in place (not disassembled):
Begin with the semi-paste stripper to remove 95 percent of the paint. Using an old paintbrush, start from the top and move down. Concentrate on one section at a time to gain confidence and keep you from becoming overwhelmed by the breadth of the project. Brush the stripper on in one direction.
Depending on the quality of stripper and layers of paint on the wood, it generally takes strippers between 5 and 20 minutes to work. Give the stripper enough penetration time – it may take a few applications to remove all the paint. Paint tends to build up in cracks and corners. Allow more time for the stripper to work in these areas. Use a knife blade to work the stripper into these tough spots.
Use a carver’s chisel.
Once the paint has blistered, begin scraping it. Scraping instruments can vary from a butter knife for window sashes to a wood chisel for corners. To minimize messiness, try scraping from the direction of the stripped area into the unstripped area. Keep a cardboard box handy to collect residue.
Once about 95 percent of the paint is removed, it’s time for the liquid stripper. Begin by using another old paintbrush, and coat the entire area with the liquid to keep it moist. Let it sit a few minutes (as directed).
Pick up your brass bristle brush. This brush won’t harm the surface of the wood. It also speeds up the process immensely. As you work, keep the surface and the bristles wet with the stripper. Brush in rapid strokes with the grain of the wood.
To dispose of the last of the old paint, apply another wash of solvent. Use a squeegee to speed up the final process.
Dry the section with a paper towel.
If paint still remains, repeat the last two steps until all the paint is removed.
Strip trim pieces in gutter.
For trim pieces:
Set up two lengths of low-back, galvanized gutter (which you can find at a sheet metal shop). Make sure the end caps are soldered on so that they do not leak. Put the trim pieces in the gutters, and pour some non-flammable liquid stripper into each. After watching the stripper eat through the paint, lift the piece up, and use your scraper to remove the paint. Submerge the piece again in the gutter. Use the brass bristle brush to remove remaining paint. Squeegee and dry off.