I'm not an expert woodworker, instead I'm an antique radio hobbyist who
often ends up having to refinish the old wooden cabinets. I've got one on
the go right now that's giving me plenty of trouble - it came in with most
veneer peeled off, pieces of wood chipped out of the legs, warped wood, and
so forth. Tons of wood glue, masking tape, and plastic cement later, the
cabinet is coming along quite well. But the stripping is proving to be a
problem, especially on the ornately-shaped legs. It's almost impossible to
get at certain areas of these legs with either sandpaper or a paint scraper.
So I tried some Minwax Antique Furniture Stripper. Didn't do any good at
all. It did remove most of the varnish from open areas, but it couldn't
touch the corners and tight spots. What's more, the chemical drips left
stains on the areas I'd already scraped, and even peeled some of the veneer
I'm guessing that the pros don't waste their time with chemical strippers,
am I right? If so, what do you recommend for removing varnish from such
Thanks for any advice.
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not much good at identifying finishes. However the stripper I use is a
mixture of methanol / acetone / toluene. Judging from the odor, you'd think
it was pretty strong stuff. Not sure where I'd find anything stronger in
Reply to: email@example.com
ATM strippers (acetone / toluene/ methanol) are relatively weak as
finish strippers go. Old radios are very often finished with a phenolic
based varnish. These are most easily stripped with a methylene chloride
containing stripper. They work quickly and do not require neutralization as
do lye based strippers such as the old Peel Away. The new Peel Away is NMP
based so it takes some time to work and effort to keep wet.
You might consider using an ATM stripper to wash down a piece hand
stripped with a methylene chloride stripper. You will need to remove the
wax that comes with the methylene based strippers not to mention any finish
that needs to be rinsed away.
To e-mail, remove NGs
If by NMP you mean N-methyl pyrilidone I suggest that a quick read of
its MSDS is in order. This is a potent solvent (which I use a lot in a
laboratory setting) but to be exposed to it in use without the proper
protection or knowledge is akin to playing Russian roulette.
Since this thread has attracked the attention of those who
seem to know, I will ask my question.
I have a chair made of white oak and stained walnut (not by me).
It has a lot of dirt and wax on it. What should I use to clean
it without disturbing the stain?
Should I just use 409 cleaner and soft rags?
Strippers are most useful, getting one that works is the trick. Most
hardware, paint stores, and home improvement stores have expensive, weak
strippers. Kutzit is a pretty good in store item. Benco has good products
as does Besway. Most of the commercial blends are very similar, either
water wash or solvent wash or both. Some flammable some not.
As has already been stated in another post, a factory blend of acetone,
toluene, methanol, and methylene chloride is as good as it will get without
harming the piece you are working on. Stay away from the caustic based
products. Stay away from the semi paste strippers as well, I know there are
those of you who swear by the semi paste, its just not for me. More work
than it is worth.
The key is to use plenty of stripper to saturate the areas, no scraping
unless you use a wood scraper. I like using a sash brush (round) with the
bristles cut to about 1-1 1/2 inches.
You did not say how old the radio cabinet is but assuming from the 1940's it
will probably have a lacquer on it if it is and original finish. If some
handyman has recoated it with a poly or urethane it will be far more
difficult to strip but just hang in there and it will come off. While
stripping rinse with clean stripper. When done use lacquer thinner to re
rinse the whole piece just as if you are striping again.
Hope this helps.
Robert's Antiques Restoration
Chemicals are good (esp Methylene Chloride, but use a mask and
ventilate!), but it sounds as though you need to use different
scrapers. I'd recommend a brass-bristle brush, which can clean out
tiny corners and wood grain, and if you can get a dentist's pick,
that'll really help you clear out the crannies.
For ornate legs and stuff, perhaps using a steel wool pad will help as
Best of luck: I love those old radio cases.
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