Unstrippable Wood Finish - What is this?

I am refinishing wood kitchen cabinets, about 1950-ish. I started out with Citistrip and then changed to methylene semi-paste. I thought one bottle of Cit. was junk, as it would not soften the finish, so I switched (not mixing the two, of course). Even with the methylene, some of the finish is barely softened...seems to be the base coat, mainly inside of cab doors. This is bizarre, as I've done tons of refinishing and never encountered this. This tough finish doesn't soften much, even after leaving meth. stripper on for an hour or more. I lift off as much of the stripper as I can with a wide plastic scraper so I can reuse it. This finish - some kind of varnish stain?? - is still in place and requires scraping hard with a metal scraper. If I don't scrape it off ASAP after removing the stripper, it doesn't want to come off. Scraping it right away yields a pile of fluffy stuff that looks kind of like cellulose insulation - almost dry and kind of powdery.
This house was built like a fortress, may have been owner built, and cabinets are kind of different...plain, thickish veneer over wood strips...can't imagine what finish was used. Seems like some doors have another finish??!
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Might be an early version of the catalyzed industrial finishes similar to those used on cars today. If so, a stripper from an auto body supply store might have something more aggressive for you. Odds are you are in for real struggle, so keep trying. Might be useful to determine the former owners background for clues as to what he may have used.
Joe
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Norminn wrote:

very difficult to remove. I can't remember how I got mine off, but some places continue to sell the paint (restorers use it) and you might be able to find one of them on line with information on how to remove it.
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If it's casein based, it will require a lye mix to remove it and rinse with vinegar. Horrible job and dangerous.
To test to see if it is some sort of auto body finish, try softening/removing a small spot with a touch of brake fluid, see what happens.
Otherwise, you may be stuck with lots of tough scraping and sanding.
Sonny
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On 4/14/2012 1:32 PM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

This isn't opaque paint...don't think milk paint comes "clear". I've read that ammonia removes milk paint, but if I had something with authentic old milk paint I'd not likely refinish it. Ennyhoo, this stuff is coming off, and it isn't horribly hard. I don't sand, don't like to .. son's cabinets, he'll do the rest.
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wrote:

my first 2 thoughts, given the era were; 1. Spar varnish, and 2; polyurethane.
Both are fairly soft-- can you dent it with a fingernail? Spar varnish was recommended for a lot of projects in the 50's. I don't think it makes a real pretty finish-- but it is likely to last 50 years without looking any the worse for wear.
The early poly's were like liquid plastic. abrasion was the only thing to remove them.
Jim
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On 4/15/2012 7:27 AM, Jim Elbrecht wrote:

It really must be some sort of plastic....not spar (too thin and hard). Mebbe there was some kind of baked-on finish in those days? It isn't the same on all doors, although they look the same?! Most of my refinishing has been older stuff. :o)
I re-use the stripper for the first application until it is too thick and gooey to apply. When my first gallon was used up, I dumped it into a foil pan to dry up before disposing. Set that outside on the deck. Couple hours later the sun had come around and the stuff was bubbling like mad...scared me at first, but it was just apparently the solvent evaporating. Wonder what the boiling point is? :o)
I grabbed a gallon of mineral spirits whilst at the hardware store. Ignored the "odor free" (slow learner)...poured some out to clean the stripped wood and the stuff looks like MILK, white and opaque. What next? Can't they leave ANYTHING alone?
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wrote:

and it works pretty well. The finish will come off like brown sugar.
I made the mistake of applying poly to an antique sideboard and had to strip it off. That is the only stuff I could find that would touch it. Nasty job, but a LOT easier than sanding that stuff!!!!
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