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
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
It could be milk based (casein based) which was used years ago and is
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.
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.
On 4/14/2012 1:32 PM, email@example.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.
my first 2 thoughts, given the era were; 1. Spar varnish, and 2;
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.
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?
Get "aircraft stripper" - it is made to remove poly-urethane finishes
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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