Need Refinishing Opinions/Suggestions

synrgystykMarch 21, 2011

I'm in the process of stripping (methylene chloride stripper) and refinishing a built-in china cabinet in our dining room. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the woodwork in the house (antique heart pine) that has shellac as a base coat, the cabinet doesn't appear to be original (I'm guessing 1940s) and was painted as its original finish.

Also, just to make things really fun, the cabinet isn't heart pine and I'm still not sure exactly what it is. The wood is rather fine-grained and very pale -- I'm thinking maybe poplar or birch. The inset panels are plywood (the first clue the cabinet wasn't original to the house). Oh, I'm only stripping the exterior of the cabinet, drawer fronts, and cabinet doors; I'm leaving the interior, shelves, etc., painted and will repaint the inside when I figure out the final color scheme for the room.

I can sand down to bare wood on most of the surfaces, but won't be able to get all of the residual paint out of the crevices and details. So I'm trying to figure out how to finish the cabinet so that the residual paint (why does it always have to be white??) is obscured as much as possible and it'll blend with the rest of the antique heart pine woodwork in the room. Yes, as a last resort I can just repaint it, but I really love the look of natural wood so I'm trying to avoid repainting.

So what would you suggest for my cabinet refinishing process? I'll be going back to shellac (a combination of kusmi and bysakhi button shellacs) for the heart pine. Any chance I could use a combination of products (sealer, gel stains, shellac, wiping varnish -- any or all) to get the cabinet to mimic the heart pine? (Casey, I have your "recipe" for getting the heart pine look with new pine. Would those gel stains mask the white paint remnants?)

Any thoughts?

Many thanks!


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The darker you're willing to go, the better will be the illusion that it's properly and fully stripped. A light/natural finish is probably going to look quite "pickled" with the embedded paint.
After you strip the finish, if you wait until the wood has dried out and is again firm and hard, quite a lot can be done with scrapers to work the remaining pigments out of the pores. Can't be done while the wood still has liquid in it, either water or petrochemical. There are many sets of "contour" scrapers out there, and with a file and determination you can shape them to do a nice job for your molding profile needs. Sandpaper has the tendency to push the pigment into the wood, especially end grain. That's where scrapers really enable a full removal. Observe adequate lead-handling precautions.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 6:49PM
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(Sorry, been working on installing the dining room's new tin ceiling so the stripping/refinishing had to wait.) Ok, during my hunt for the chalk line (never found *sigh*) I came across my profile scrapers so hopefully those will help get the rest of the "crud" out of the various moldings and crevices.

I have no problem going "dark" for the finish. I'll have to go considerably darker than light/natural anyway in order to come close to the heart pine. And, while the cabinet is nice, I don't want it to really "pop" out from the rest of the woodwork so trying to get the final color close to the pine is my goal.

So am I looking at a l- 2-lb cut of shellac as the base and then layering gel stains from there? I don't have much leeway for experimentation.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 11:43AM
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