Confusion on wood restoration methods

Short story:
There seems to be a lot of different ways to restore a wooden chair. "Use stripper", "Never use stripper", "Use sandpaper", "Don't use sandpaper, use steelwool", "No, don't use any abrassive, use oil and a rag". There may be many reasons for this but is there a generally acknowleged "best practices" for a certain set of wood restoration projects?
My specifics (ie: the longer story) I've started taking my first wood restoration class. I have two DUX Mid Century Modern chairs that I'm restoring. The old varnish was dirty, and in some places non-existent. My teacher has had me do a four step process: stripper with wire brush, stripper thinner with wire brush, TSP-type soap and wire brush, finally, water rinse with wire brush. This week, now that it's dry, she'll look at it and decide how much grain was raised and what grit to start sanding with. I was having a problem getting to all the nooks with my brush so I went online to see what others do and that's when I ran into the restoration method avalanche, and eventually to diybanter. (Pleasure to meet you all)
Any advice for my confusion (besides medication:)? Thank you in advance, Rain
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Coyote-Rain


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Coyote-Rain wrote:

Yeah. There is more than one road to Rome so figure out what works for you and ignore the rest.
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dadiOH
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On Saturday, April 6, 2013 1:28:24 AM UTC-6, Coyote-Rain wrote:

Cleaning is a given, as a first step, so beyond that, not all restorations start with stripping, but this seems to be your focus, here.
If you need a wire brush with your stripper, then you're using the wrong/in efficient stripper. A good stripper doesn't need the help of a "wire" brus h. I use a good stiff plastic brush, but more as a cleaner/scraper of the stripped gunk/residue. It doesn't scratch the wood. A small hard tooth br ush gets into nooks, crannies and carvings better than a large brush and ce rtainly doesn't scratch the delicate wood of fine edges, typical of carving s, especially. Rinse with mineral spirits, once with dripping scrub brush once with a wet rag.
If no further repairs are needed, then prior to finishing, a wipe down with acetone, naptha or maybe denatured alcohol, depending on the previous fini sh, is often applied, then the finishing begins.
Beyond the stripping stage, restoration is dictated by what else may be "wr ong" with the piece.
Sonny
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Coyote-Rain wrote:

It depends on the finish to be removed, timber and project
I prefer to use glass and cabinet scrapers , i would never use chemical strippers on decent furnishiungs as they can damage some timbers and its difficult to remove every trace.
steel wool is fine, however i would never use it on oak furntiture as it can cause bluestaining if your not extremly careful
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As always, just my opinion follows. I will tag along with what has been said as there has been useful advice dispensed.
But you have to know a couple of things about what you are talking about. The difference between restoration and refinishing is as wide as The Grand Canyon. At one time refinishing (not restoration) was part of my business and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed restoration as well, but most folks don't want to pay for it.
When refinishing, you take off the existing finish to the bare wood. For effect, it is common to leave a bit of color behind if you can so that the piece still looks period or authentic, but the piece is completely (re)finished with a new coating to protect it. Hardware is replaced or refinished, and modern repair methods are used to fix broken parts and pieces. There may or may not be any effort made to have the refinished piece look like the original. About ten years ago I refinished "mahogany" doors, and when stripped, they were a curious (but pretty) bronze/gold grained species that the country club owners decided they like better than the wood stained to match the traditional mahogany red folks crave. I shot several clear coats on it, and the grain pop was incredible and the doors looked much more modern and updated. New Baldwin hardware and I was done.
When restoring, one tries to keep the piece looking like it was after a bit of wear. The original finish is left intact wherever possible, and good restoration is more about cleaning and hidden repairs than anything else. Old hardware is reused whenever possible, but if replaced, the new hardware must match the original as closely as possible, or if not, at least the time frame to which the piece was made. Old marks and deep scratches are mitigated, but not removed. My guideline was make a piece look like it did when it was still in use. The old finishes used aren't a spot on the butt of today's finishes, and most will dissolve with high VOC solvents, so it can be easy to redistribute the old finishes on some pieces.
I have restored a few chairs and couple of keep sake items passed down to great grandkids. I REALLY enjoyed that work as it was quite relaxing and I could see the care and consideration put into the pieces when they were built.
While this is no reflection on you CR, your instructor is an complete idiot, not qualified to sweep floors. Restoration is a craft, learned mostly by trial and error and a good restorer has several years of trial and error behind them just to get exposed to finishing and construction techniques, not to mention all the nuances presented by working with different woods.
I have never heard or read or seen anyone that used stripper and a wire brush on a restoration. The wire brush alone won't raise the grain, but it will eat out the soft pulp between the grain to make it appear that the grain was raised. No one uses wire brushes on refinishes either unless it is metal doors, handrails, etc. It is common to use a small brass bristled brush to clean out stubborn wood details that have accumulated dirt and grime, but they are a last resort. You never use and instrument to clean that is much, much harder than the wet wood you are stripping as it is too easy to damage the wood and you may not know when you do it as the wet gunk of stripped finish will hide the scratches you leave while working.
My first advice would be to head to the library and go through their books on restoring and refinishing of wood. It is absolutely fascinating. I have spent untold hours reading about techniques, home brew finishes, how to restore hardware, etc.
Second, if the chairs you are working on are not of any real value and you are actually stripping for a refinish (as opposed to a restoration), get a good stripper (BIX in the orange can is pretty good) and a couple of stiff scrub brushes in different profiles. Apply your stripper, wait until the finish bubbles, then brush off the old finish. Do this twice, even if you don't think it needs to be done twice. The second pass will remove the residue that you didn't get the first time. Then rinse with lacquer thinner. Sand, rinse with lacquer thinner again, then apply your finish as per manufacturer's instruction.
Good luck!
Robert
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I appreciate all the answers. Especially the difference between refinishing and restoration.
I unfortunately don't know what kind of stripper we're using. We purchase new empty steel cans in the classroom and the instructor fills them up. I'll ask her this week though.
The chairs are somewhat collectible. They're mid-century modern, which is hot right now, and they're labled DUX, which is pretty well known. That's why I wanted to do a really good job on them.
Thank you all for your advice, and I will definitely take a trip to the library.
~Rain
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On Sunday, April 7, 2013 3:22:11 AM UTC-5, Coyote-Rain wrote:

s hot right now, and they're labled DUX, which is pretty well known. That's why I wanted to do a really good job on them.
"Somewhat collectible" is an understatement.
From your posts, your level of knowledge needs to be upgraded, a good bit m ore, before you tackle those chairs. You need to show us some detailed pic s of those chairs. You damn sure don't want to skimp on refinishing or res toring them. Even refinished, each chair can be worth a heck of a lot more than most chairs that age or any age.
First of all, you need to test to see whether the present finish is lacquer , shellac or something else. Do you know how to do the lacquer and shellac tests? There may be a good chance the original finish is lacquer. It's not unusual that the finish on a piece dictates what "stripping" procedure, if need be, is better/best.
Also, you want (or at least I would recommend, as best you can) to use the same stripping process/procedure for all the chairs.... you don't want to a lter your stripping process for subsequent chairs, if you start to find the process tedious and/or troublesome (not fun). Altering the stripping proc ess may result in slight mismatched colorations, prior to refinishing.
Are you on a time frame to complete the refinishing/restoring? You may nee d some (good) time to study, some more, what's best, before you dive in to this project.
Is there upholstery on the chairs and, if so, do you plan to remove the uph olstered parts (seats & backrests)? Though not relavent to this thread, wi ll you be reupholstering the upholstered parts?
Many of those highend furniture pieces had/have finish blends applied and s ometimes you can find what original blend is on certain furniture, if you w ant to match the original finish. Companies, as Heywood Wakefield, still h ave their older finish blends available, either for blending yourself or pu rchasing a quantity of the blend. Compared to your style of chairs, the si milar style of J.L Moller furniture typically has lacquer finishes applied to them.
I don't particularly like to refer anyone to another forum, as there are ex cellent advisors here, but here are a few threads that may be helpful, as w ell.
http://www.refinishwizard.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t120
http://www.refinishwizard.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t056
Sonny
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O

Wow, those were probably worth a lot of money when they had the original f inish. Don't you ever watch antiques roadshow? Nice old chair $100. Nice ol d chair with original finish $10,000.
I do know that "professional" restores start with a waterless cleaning. Bel ieve it or not, it is very common for them to use goop or other waterless h and cleaner (not the abrasive type like zep). It really is one of the best ways to clean off all the years of grime with no grain raising or other wat er damage. Then, regarding the finish, a "restorer" would try to repair dam aged or worn areas and almost do a faux finish with authentic materials to blend in any fixes. I learned much of what I know of finishing from a maste r in this area. When he was done, I could never tell where his work stopped and the original finish started.
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