refinishing doors, and terrified

niftycJune 16, 2014

This seems like a fab forum but I admit I am a little terrified by all of the information here. I am a DIY baby and I have never tried to do any home improvement projects before. I live in an old house where all of the extensive woodwork has been painted white. I thought that a good way to start would be to learn to strip paint and refinish wood. I am starting with a plain upstairs door.

It is c. 1850 and it is solid wood. I've removed the door and removed all of the paint, but I'm not sure how to decide on the next step. In case it matters, I noticed that the wood seems dry -- some of the edges are kind of crumbly. Given how difficult the door was to take off and the many coats of paint were on it and the fact that the door hardware is stamped "PIERPONT AND HOTCHKISS NEW HAVEN Con 1843" I'm thinking no one has paid this door any attention in a long time.

Reading the forums there is so much information I am at a loss. There seems to be a boiled linseed oil contingent. Other people say my next step is shellac. Some people seem to be saying my next move depends on the kind of wood it is but I have no idea how to figure that out. YouTube videos advocate all kinds of things. Is there anyone knowledgeable about woodworking who would be willing talk DIY babytalk to me about how to decide what to do next?

To recap. I have a solid wood door that I have scraped down to the bare wood. I have sanded it. I used to live in an old house that had a rich dark brown wood doors and I really liked the look. What should I do? Keep in mind that if there are two alternatives, the easiest one should be my choice -- I can mess up anything!

Hoping for any help...

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You have an extraordinary opportunity to do something many people will never have. Which is to be able to work with and restore old craftsmanship.

Ok, now that I just made your dilemma worse, I will explain how to face the dilemma and become good at solving the various problems.

First, get a copy of the book I listed below. I provided the Amazon listing for ease. It is available from other places.

Second, read it. That will begin to get you thinking wood finishing.

Third, once you understand the general procedure, decide on a plan to follow(treatment/color/finish) and experiment.

Oh My! Experiment on that door???

No, find a closet. Inside the closet is molding, both base and door molding. Carefully remove some of each and look to see if it is similar to each other and the door. Those pieces(4 or 5) become your test lab.

Keep detailed notes, practice, and before long you will be producing beautifully reconditioned wood work.

Long is a relative term. Might take 6 months, depending on how much you can devote to the job. Everyone who does this kind of work started out from the same place you are in now--a desire and no experience. You will try things you don't like, but you will discover the process that gets you to your goal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Understanding wood finishing

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:28AM
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Good advice, and second the recommendation of Flexner's book. Dresdner's "Wood finishing Book" is another good resource, I understand there is a new revised edition out that presumably adds more modern finishes, though I haven't seen it.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:50AM
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If you want a natural look, I would just apply a couple coats of Varnish.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Hey! I think you are up to some fun work there! I hope your project works out. I would look at some finished doors for inspiration as to what the final project should look like. If you need any hardware, I know my friend has bought from NW artisan before. You may want to check them out for installation instructions. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: sliding door installation instructions

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:56PM
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I am just catching up, but I was wondering if anything you read addressed the crumbling (i.e. dry rotted) wood?

I've used Elmer's product specifically for that, which hardens wood with something that really just looks like glue. Anyway, it becomes hard again, and is sandable. Just curious if there's a better, recommended method?

What did the books say?
Where are you on your fabulous project?
Did you come across the Citristrip so you don't have to die from chemicals?

I'm really interested to hear what you've done.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 11:25AM
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