Help, chipping finish!!


My home has unpainted woodwork throughout and also a lot of paneling. I've been told that the finish was probably lacquer. Anyway, it is *extremely* fragile! I can cause it to chip by just raking a finger-nail across it. Chipping isn't really accurate -- it sort of crystalizes into something that looks like rosin. I have been covering these chips with Liquid Gold, which does a good job for a couple of months, but am looking for a more permanent solution. Removing and redoing the finish isn't practical, but I thought I might clean the wood with mineral spirits and then wipe some pure tung oil on the entire surface and wipe off after about 5 minutes. The tung oil should soak into the wood where there is no finish and then harden. What do you think about this solution?
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Sounds like it just might be old wax. Lacquer will be quite yellow and sort of crack and fall off. Shellac will crack as well (also called crazing). You might want to try this:
1. Wipe down with mineral spirits and see if that removes the finish. If it does, it's wax.
or
2. Use a clean, lint-free cloth (like linen) dampened (not soaking) with alcohol, and see if that smooths the finish a bit. If it does, it's shellac. You should be able to refresh the finish with thinned shellac (the Sealcoat stuff by Zinnser is fine - cut it 2:1 denatured alcohol to shellac) applied with that same lint-free cloth. It's no more difficult than wiping a baby's ass. DAMHIKT(A). Matter of fact, a cloth diaper excels in this task. Irony or synergy? You be the judge.
Even if you're doing quite a bit of woodwork, it's not that daunting as the job goes extremely fast. Use plenty of ventillation or you will get drunk and end up with one helluva headache.
I wouldn't apply tung oil (or a tung oil varnish) over a failing finish. Tung oil alone is not very hard and doesn't provide a lot of protection.
3. If alcohol has no effect, then it's some other kind of finish - probably lacquer. This will have to be stripped with a quality stripper. No, not that kind, Lar.
O'Deen
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Thanks, I'll try the alcohol but even though this is a "custom" home I doubt the builder used anything as high end as shellac.
As I said, I won't be removing this finish. As for the oil not protecting -- I'm not really looking for protection, just something to make these light chips look better and that's more permanent than Liquid Gold type products.
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Sounds like the painter only used sanding sealer on the wood and didn't topcoat with lacquer. In time, the finish can be rubbed off and it looks like a whitish dust.
Its a great way for the painter to save money.
See if lacquer thinner removes it. Regardless, the finish has to be removed before anything else is put on the wood.
Preston
wrote:

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Hmm, that's interesting. A woodworker once told me that he thought the painter had "skipped a step" or only done 1 of 2 steps -- something like that. I don't remember exactly. Since then, I've wondered what he was talking about because I thought spraying lacquer on was a one step process.
Does sanding sealer look like a finish?
What does it mean if lacquer thinner removes it?
Why does the finish have to be removed? Why can't I just apply oil to the places where the finish has chipped or crystalized off? The finish has been "removed" from those places.
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Sanding sealer is lacquer with stearates added to make it easy to sand. The sealer is intended strictly as an undercoat. It is a common practice with dishonest painters to spray sanding sealer and not follow with lacquer. It looks just like a lacquer finish and won't show any problems for a year or two, long after the painter is paid and gone. The same properties that make it easy to sand also makes the undercoat "turn to white dust", especially as it ages. It must be covered with a topcoat (lacquer, poly, etc.) to keep this from happening. If a rag with lacquer thinner removes the finish, and it is dusting like you say, it is almost certainly sanding sealer.
Should you remove the finish before applying something else? If you were applying lacquer, I would say just apply it, since lacquer melts into lacquer. However, since it is degrading, I would ask a knowledgeable person at a reputable paint supplier. Or to be safe, just start wiping with a rag dampened with lacquer thinner and be sure to change rags often or you will find that you are spreading it around.
Of course this is all based on the finish being sanding sealer.
Preston

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Thanks!
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