Refinishing kitchen cupboard doors.

Approx 38 year old kitchen cabinets. Doors are solid wood (probably edge glued birch?) with a maple colour finish.
Doors are in good condition (not bowed or gaps etc) and hinges are good and of course could be replaced by identical ones. But the finish which appears to be some sort of varnish/sprayed plastic etc. is deteriorated. It's so soft in some places (lower edges over over the counters) that it can be scraped off with a fingernail like thin coat of candle wax!
Deterioration due to heat and general cooking activity and probably the extended over use of spray type furniture wax.
What type of 'stripper' would be best?
I'd rather refinish than paint them; although paint would be lighter and brighter! What type of finish, maybe after recolouring them? Some sort of satin Varathane?
There's a total of 22 doors (mixture of uppers and lowers) in two 8 foot runs of counter. Due to the addition of a dishwasher at one time we have two spare lower doors and two drawers that we can experiment finishes with.*
Any advice would be most welcome. TIA. Best regards for 2009.
PS. I also have some boat woodwork partly teak but also some mahogany trim, detached from the boat which has been sanded but needs re varnishing. Any ideas although I can ask that on a 'boat' group.
BTW: Local 'Kitchen cabinet' outfits contacted want to sell prefinished replacement doors and/or new cabinets. Can definitely understand why; probably not worth their while to spend additional labour refinishing if and when they can move new product and obtain the work for installing it. Also we have been going through a bit of a housing boom recently so they have been busy doing work for contractor housing; slowing down now though!
*Please excuse use of a preposition at end of the penultimate last para.
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terry wrote:

Don't know what you mean by "edge glued"...solid birch? The gumminess comes from grease softening the finish. Methylene stripper is strongest, fastest, but you have a lot of doors. I did a smaller kitchen with oak cab, which turned out beautiful. You would need to take doors drawers outdoors because it is stinky, messy work. I've done a lot of furniture, never used the citric strippers. Methylene semi-paste x2 applications, stcrape, clean up with steel wool and mineral spirits. Much quicker if the doors have no moldings.
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If its Birch natural is best if no paint was ever on it, if you stain it you need a pre stain sealer like Bix or it could be ruined from the way Birch takes stain. Polyurethane is toughest. For exterior use Marine varnish, the best might be P&L, and at maybe 80$ a gallon it should be, It was the best 20 years ago but contact boat dealers.
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On Sat, 10 Jan 2009 04:35:48 -0800 (PST), ransley

I stringly suspect you have either a laquer or oil finish. Try laquer thinners or Methyl hydrate and see if the finish will disolve.
Circa refinisher might also work.
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terry wrote:

No problem. One possible revision of:
" Due to the addition of a dishwasher at one time we have two spare lower doors and two drawers that we can experiment finishes with."
is:
"Due to the addition of a dishwasher at one time we have two spare lower doors and two drawers with which we can experiment," thereby avoiding the horrid original construct.
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Exactly: You are correct, I think.
But it does seems clumsy to have to use the "with which" etc. In everyday speech one would just as likely end with a 'with'?
Or these days might, quite likely, come across in the form of .... "Like I said, like I want to clean off, like the old finish. And then, like refinish, with some sort of stain, like, maybe maple again, and then like I said re-varnish, I mean like some sort of plastic maybe ................!!!!!! :-)
As one wit once said; 'English. Like she is spoke'!
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