Which Restore-A-Finish? please help...

SheeshareeIIJuly 9, 2008

Hello everyone. I usually hang on the decoration forum but thought someone over here would have some advice.

Bought this desk off CL the other week. It's in need of some TLC. Before I go sanding it was suggested i try Howards Restor a finish.

What color do you recommend? I've been told stain on old furniture over time appears darker. This is close to black in real life. The top is lighter due to having more use. I'd say this was used as a hobby table.

So if it's true that the stain gets darker over time and i'm trying to bring back the original ... would i go with the mahogony color or pick a color such as the dark walnut or ebony brown which is probably closer to the existing color?

What should i use to clean it first?

There's also paint down the one leg and on the side. Suggestions as to how or what to get that off? Doesn't pick off real well and there's a good bit of it.

Here are some pictures.

I don't know of anyone or any place around here that deals with antique/old furniture.

Thanks in advance!


Here is a link that might be useful: Restore A Finish colors

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Personally, I'd skip right past the Restor-a-finish. It will give you slight and temporary relief. Do not sand this, as you can risk sanding right through any veneers. In addition, sanding is a quite inefficient way to remove finish. Use a chemical stripper to remove all the old finish, do a light sanding, stain if desired, and finish with a clear finish, preferably not polyurethane.

If you tell me how you post pictures, I'll show you an example fo before and after of a desk I did a couple of years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: Destroying the value and other myths.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 8:37PM
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bobsmyuncle -that would be great if you could show me some pics. Thanks so much! going to check out that link now. I've ALWAYS had people tell me not to strip old furniture because it will ruin the value...etc

here's how to load pics.

1. Set up your private account with photobucket ( it's a free photo hosting) www.photobucket.com

2. Load your pictures to your photo site. After you click on browse, you then select one of your pics and click open. Continue to do this until you have selected all the pics you want to transfer to Photobucket, then click "Upload" and wait a few minutes. The pics will now be on Photobucket, and you can post them to your messages here

3. To post on GW, under each photo are several web addy's...
Look for the one that says HTML code (the third one down in the list). Just click on it and it will copy, then paste it directly to your message, but be sure to leave a space (start a new paragraph) between that and your text (or between 2 photos)or else it will all run together and stretch out the screen. When you preview the message you should see your photo. If you don't, you probably used the wrong code, so try it again before you click "submit".

paste is straight into your written GW post. You can paste several photo's by repeating these steps. This does require
you have two explorer windows open at the same time. One with free photo account and one for GW especially if you post multiple photo's

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 1:47PM
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doing some more searching and found

"Figure Out What the Old Finish Is
Step1Set up your workstation in a well-ventilated area. Put down a plastic sheet or large piece of cardboard to keep your stripper and the old finish off your floor.
Step2Start by testing the finish to determine whether it is shellac or lacquer rather than varnish.
Step3Use both lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol. Spread each on a small section of the surface, give them 15 to 20 seconds to work and then wipe the surface. A shellac finish will liquefy when denatured alcohol is applied, while a lacquer finish will come off with lacquer thinner. If either of these solvents removes your surface, you will know what kind of finish you're dealing with, and you won't need to use a chemical stripper. If the surface remains unchanged after your test, you have a varnish finish and will need to use a chemical stripper this..."

should i do this first?

I've never refinished anything. mainly because of everyone always hollering not to. I'm confident I can do it but definitely need some direction on what products to use etc.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Partially true. Most lacquer thinners have a significant portion of ethanol or methanol (the mix varies by mfr. and speed). So lacquer thinner will dissolve both shellac and lacquer.

So technically, you could use alcohol or lacquer thinner to strip a finish. This simply means you are using a different stripper chemical. There are only a few types of strippers. How to strip wood

Here is a link that might be useful: Determining a finish

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 8:52PM
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thanks! that has a ton of good information!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 3:09PM
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Here are some photos of a similar piece. Lots of failing finish and water damage. The result is a bit red for my taste, but it's exactly what the customer wanted.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 10:31PM
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wow that looks great! really changes the piece.

and you didn't sand that before you started stripping it?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 10:07AM
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hey im not sure ive yove stripped it or not yet, but i can tell you that is almost definately a shellac, and im not sure what bob's nephew took pictures of but i can tell you that there is almost never an instance where you will have to sand if a stripper is used to remove a finish. most strippers will also take off more than one type of finsih so the paint and mystery finishes are baisically non issues at that point, and hey, bobs my uncle, ive been doing some posting here and there for acouple weeks and noticed it seems like you know what youre talking about,just to satisfy my curiosity what do you do? are you just a general handy man, or do you do wood working for a living?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 11:32AM
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Why sand before stripping? The stripper does the work.

I normally sand with 220 after stripping to clean things up a bit and get rid of any residual fuzzies.

Scanman14, I own and operate a furniture repair and refinishing business. I do "woodworking" in some of the repairs, a lot of touch up and deluxing work, and stripping and refinishing in odd moments. I also do a couple hundred upholstery cleaning and repair jobs a year. It's all just chemistry and a bit of engineering. For example on this desk, you might notice some new wood on the left-side drawer area waiting to be shaped to a pendant and a couple of the drawers were falling apart and needed to be repaired / rebuilt.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 8:24PM
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ok ok no sanding. I've been repeating some of what i've read here and ppl who don't do this for a living are trying to tell me how to do it. :)

i remember reading in one of those threads about cleaning the product after you're done stripping. I can just use the 220 sandpaper? Or does this depend on what chemical I use?

could you recommend some products? i've noticed a lot of the people working at lowes don't really know what they're talking about either.

I'm still nervous to start this but need to do something with it.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 2:11PM
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It depends upon the product you are using to strip. In a prior business, we used to say RTFM. Today, I'd say, "Read The Friendly Label" Some strippers contain a bit of wax to retard evaporation while they work. You need to remove the wax before proceeding. Others need rinsed. The one I use is NMP-based and I use acetone to clean it up, pick up any leftover bits of finish, and enable it to dry faster.

I have heard lots of laughable things said by employees of the paint department in the big boxes. I know one retired painter that worked at one for a while, and the other one I know that worked there used to run a fork-lift. Maybe some of them know paints, most of them don't know much except "polyurethane" (aka, "Minwax, Minwax, toujours le Minwax!") when it comes to wood finishing. Typical conversation:
"I need a gallon of acetone."
"Umm, what are you going to do with it?"
"I use it when I strip furniture." (I felt like saying, "Meth lab" and then twitching.)
"Oh, our strippers are right over here."
"NO, not a stripper, used in stripping. Where are your solvents?"
"Like paint thinner?"

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 9:11PM
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haha that seriously made me laugh!

I'll check out some labels and see what i come up with.

Acetone... i'm a beautician/nail tech. i own acetone for acrylic nail stuff. Is acetone .. acetone? I didn't think there were different types but I'll look into that too.

I'm sure i'll be back here for more questions.

Again thanks for all your help so far!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:23AM
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Well, technically, Acetone (propanone, dimethyl ketone, 2-propanone, propan-2-one and ò-ketopropane) is acetone, CH3COCH3.

I asked once why two different brands of acetone had radically different prices at the paint store. " One must be watered down some." Well, then it wouldn't be Acetone, would it? In other words, the clerk didn't really know. Call me cruel, I sometimes play these games with paint store people.

Nail polish remover might have additional things in it, either to make it a better solvent or less harsh to skin.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 7:20PM
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hey wanted to mention something- pure acetone is very very harsh and works very well for stripping something like what you have, there are also actone based cleaners, which have a mild etcching effect ut i doubt would do the job you want it to do, to reinforce bobsnephew's recomendation-read the label make sure you know EXACTLY what it is youre buying and what you use it for. oh and btw

that was really funny, some of the worst tips ive ever gotten or heard given are from people that work in paint departments or retired contractors that have been doing it their way since I was knee high to a tadpole. people dont realize that the formulas for people favorite products are changing more rapidly every year, and these changes in formula lead to changes in directions as well

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 9:41AM
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Can anyone tell me what product to use to remove grease from my wooden kitchen cabinets. The cabinets are over 30 years old and "hand tooled" whatever that means. Also I would like to stain the bottom cabinets in the dark (black)colored stain that you see on furniture and cabinets now days. I am not sure if it is actually stain, or paint. Would appreciate any advise on what type of stain or paint to buy and what color name to look for? I am new to this forum and look forward to hearing from all of you. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 7:22PM
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ilovenature - hi and welcome! i can't help help you with stain and paint info . -notice i'm here for help too! :)

you might get a better response if you post your question as a new thread

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 10:54AM
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bobsmyuncle - made a trip to lowes over the weekend. Wanted to double check regarding the stuff i bought.

Most of the strippers were MC. The only one I found that was NMP was called Citristrip. It's an orange gel.
Info on the container...

stays wet & active for up to 24 hours. biodegradable. removes multiple layers of latex & oil based paint, varnish, lacquer, enamel, polyurethane, shellac, acrylics & epoxy from wood, metal & masonry surfaces.

pour into metal container & apply with paint brush

-allow 30 min. (up to 24 hours) scrape a small test area to see if finish is ready for removal. scrape in direction of wood grain using plastic tool. stubborn areas use abrasive stripping pad dipped in citristrip. use toothbrush, toothpick or stripping brush to help remove old finish buried in recesses.

-use paint stripper wash or odorless mineral spirits w/ an abrasive stripping pad to loosen remaining residue. surface should be completely clean & dry before refinishing.

disposal - allow liquid to evaporate & residue to dry outdoors

contains N-Methyl 2-Pyrrolidone

i did see acetone but after reading the back of the stripper I bought the Paint Stripper After Wash that went with......
info on that...
removes stripping residue from wood grain & intricate carvings.
prepares stripped surface for finishing.
discard & replace the used wash when it becomes cloudy w/ residue
best results, apply while surface is still damp from stripping.

Questions I have for you..

1. Are the products I bought alright?

2. Should I use acetone instead of the After Wash?

3. Do I apply the stripper to the entire desk at once?? or do in sections?

4. Should i ditch the metal container after using the stripping in it?

Finally got the desk moved to the basement. Hoping to start this over the upcoming weekend.

pic of all the goodies.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 8:13AM
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well, i'm not bobs my uncle but i can answer these

1. the products are fine, that's a green light

2. no, most likely the wash contains SOME acetone, but i doubt it's the active ingredient. most afterwashes are specifically designed to nuetrilize the stripper used (which are usually very harsh) so to combat the first chemical cocktail you should probably use the second one they recomend

3. i would do it in sections. since the goal of this step of the project is to REMOVE the coating, theres really no danger of lap markl or anthing like that and frankly-it is just easier

4. almost definatley

good luck with it, im sure its going to look great

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:20AM
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skanman - hey thanks.

2. so i should use the "odorless mineral spirits w/ an abrasive stripping pad" instead of the "after wash product"?

3. when i strip it in sections should i be following with the clean up in sections? Or strip in sections and when the whole thing is done then go back and clean it all up? I wasn't sure what "danger of lap markl" meant. . .

It won't hurt the areas that have the finish worn off if it sits too long?

Ha can you tell i'm nervous about screwing this up?! I also have never stained anything before so after i tackle this part i'll be back with questions on that!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:49AM
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Methylene chloride evaporates very quickly. I have some MC upholstery cleaner that boils at 89F. Mostly the after-washes remove the wax put in strippers to keep the MC from evaporating too quickly. I am not familiar with what you bought. I just use acetone. The advantage to it is that it will clean up the little bits of finish that the stripper might not completely remove.

I usually strip in sections when I'm hand stripping, unless I'm using my "flow-over" system. NMP strippers don't evaporate very quickly, but doing in sections just allows me to work at a comfortable pace. If you find the stripper too dry when it's time to remove, just add a bit more and start with your putty knife.

Your dust masks are not going to do much but keep splashes out of your mouth. What you has is for "nuisance dust." I'd rather see you have some good eye protection.

I can't tell what grit sandpaper you have, but 180-220 would be about the right range for refinishing, unless there is some severe damage. Remember this has been sanded and finished at one time.

Your coffee can will work fine. I have a source for Folger's and Maxwell house plastic ones, so that's what I use. After stripping, set it in a breezy area or garage and let it harden the sludge. At that point, it will be no worse than disposing of a piece of furniture with finish on it, so it can go to the landfill.

Wishing you the best of luck. If it's any support, I did my first stripping job at age 14. I inherited that piece upon my father's death and 45 years later, it's still in good shape. I introduced my daughter to stripping when she was about the same age. (and I hope that statement does not get taken out of context.)

Come back if you need more help.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 7:55PM
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bobsmyuncle - so I noticed those articles were written by Bob Flexner... is he your uncle?

Anyhow, I actually heading out and about tonight and think I'll be stopping back in at lowes. I'll probably swap out the After Wash for the acetone.

"I normally sand with 220 after stripping to clean things up a bit and get rid of any residual fuzzies."

the sandpaper I bought is 220. you sand before or after using the acetone? What do you apply the acetone with? I'm assuming it does say on the back of the container.....

Also, you strip it in sections and clean the entire piece up AFTER it's completely stripped?

I couldn't find chemical goggles. I'd imagine they have them. I'll ask tonight.

Also couldn't find any scrapey brushes. The desk has lots of crevices in the feet, the steel wool and scotch bright will be alright to work in there?

And it won't hurt if the stripper is on the wood too long? Not like bleach with hair right?. . . Like I said (and you can see) some wood on the top is exposed.

Since this stuff is suppose to be slow, should I expect this to take most of the day Saturday? Says 30 min. up to 24 hours.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 9:28AM
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I apply stripper and let sit for a while (~1 hr.) Scrape off with putty knife, profile scrapers, brushes, and / or Scotchbrite pads.

Wipe with a rag dipped in acetone. Turn often. Wear gloves and use in a ventilated spot.

Let dry overnight or more.

Sand with 220.

Bob Flexner is not my uncle. "Bob's you uncle" is a British expression for "there you are," "all is well," etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bob's Your Uncle

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 6:41PM
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bobsmyuncle - never knew that was a phrase. Learn something everyday!

thanks for the clarification! bought some acetone last night,chemical glasses, drop cloth and I 'think' i have everything now.

I'll be reporting back with how it went! thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 9:41AM
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Sheesharee, I have been following this post and just wanted to wish you well.
Lots of good information here from knowledgable people.

I am hobbist woodworker and have been playing around with ebonizing using vinegar and steel wool.

Hope it is okay to post this here as it has to do with finishing. Here are two rocking horses that I built and the dark wood (rockers & legs) of the one on the left is red oak that I ebonized.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 10:48AM
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shot - those rocking horses look good! someone had made one very similar for me when I was a kid.

update: So far I'm still working on the top. Started in the right section, waited an hour, scraped. Added more to the entire top, waited an hour and scaped some more. It's taking a lot of the gunk off but I think i need to let it sit longer than an hour maybe. I feel like i'm wasting the stripper. I think the wood is maybe mahogany? I can really see the grain. Looks like it has darker streaks/grain? running through it. Not sure if that's just more finish or not. When i did scrape you can see some circular spots that the finish was worn off and the parts that were already scraped aren't quite as light as that yet. So again, i'm assuming it's not all off.

Will stripper take glue off? You can see spots of that on the top where people were slopping with whatever they were doing. Am I going to need to scrape this off?

I'm doing this in my basement. I have a large box fan set up beside it blowing away from it. Is this alright? I wore chemical glasses and gloves but the sides of my nose and around my upper lip have been stinging/burning since i came back upstairs. It's not red or puffy just stings. Would those dust mask help at all? Really not liking how my face feels right now. I'm ready to try and find a ski mask. . .

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 3:07PM
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today's update. discovered the glue isn't glue, it's wax. You can pick/scrape it off.

The stinging on my face went away. I tried the dust mask thing yesterday for awhile but it kept foggin up my glasses so i ditched that idea.

I'm still on the top portion of the desk. It's sitting there right now with probably the sixth time of gooping the stripper on the top. I'd say it's close to being completely off but i'm STILL getting dark stain off when i scrape/wipe. There's a little 1/2 edge around the top that is so uneven right now in color.

Put stuff on all 5 drawers this morning and should have saved those for last. There's nowhere to grab onto right when you're trying to clean it off. It's turning into a royal mess down there. Guess i'm somewhat sloppy.

I've already used close to half the container of stripper. At the rate it's taking me I'd probably need like 6 more containers of that, another jumbo pack of paper towels and two months of weekends to work on this. I'm ready to buy an MC stripper and see how that goes. I'm rather frustrated that it's working so slow and uneven. And I cringe to think that the top is the easy part! The legs (insides) and feet are going to be a blast. My basement isn't hot. Might be 70 degrees. Think this stripper is junk or is this typical of the NMP strippers when they say they're "slow working"?

Also should i be concerned about spontaneous combustion with the paper towels i have all balled up in my box that all the scrappings are going into? I currently have it sitting outside when i'm not down there with it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 1:19PM
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here's some pics. the top and edge are the only thing i really worked on.

Like I said I'm still getting finish off when i scrape.

You can see the edge is really uneven in color.. dark little marks on top is the wax

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 9:32AM
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It's looking good to me. I've done a few stripping jobs on-site and I warn the owner, "Don't panic when you see it part-way done. It will end up fine. You don't normally see the phases in the middle of the job."

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 10:23PM
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Thanks Sheesharee for posting an reply to my question. You were the only one that answered. Think I will take your advice and post it on a new thread. I did see a TV show about stripping kitchen cabinets and all he did was lightly sand the wood, dusted it well with a cloth and then applied a stain with a polyurethane (spelling?) finish. I think the show was "Ron Hazelton's housecalls".Look for it on google. You might be able to go to his website and watch a video of the process. He made it look so easy? Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 7:13PM
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