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How to Strip Wood: A DIY Guide

The perfect finished or painted wood pieces look wonderful in your home. When the finish starts to wear off or the paint starts to chip, it’s time to strip it all off so you can reinvigorate that wood.

strip wood
Image via Flickr by mccun934

How to Strip Wood with Chemicals

Chemical strippers are the most popular choice for stripping wood because they’re easy to use and work quickly. When you apply a chemical stripper, you’ll want to wear rubber gloves during the process. Apply the stripper with a brush, but use as few brush strokes as possible. The less you move the chemical around, the better it’ll do its job. Let it soak into the wood finish for as long as the bottle instructs, and then gently scrape it off. To remove the stripping agent, you may need a damp rag or a substance like turpentine; again, the bottle will give you specifics.

Going Natural with Citrus

When you use a citrus stripper, the application process is the same, but you usually have to let them sit for longer, and they may not work 100 percent on the first go. You may have to wipe the wood down with a cloth and reapply the citrus stripping agent again to certain spots. A huge bonus: the citrus variety smells considerably better than the chemicals do.

Learning to Wield a Heat Gun

When you use a heat gun, you’ll want to wash off the wood before you apply any heat to make sure nothing but the old varnish or paint reacts to the heat. The heat gun should be on low or medium; if you’ve never used one before, start with low and see how that works for you. With the heat gun in one hand and the scraper in the other, hold the heat close to the wood without touching it, and move it up and down over a small area. Once the paint or varnish gets soft, you can scrape it off. Repeat until you’ve got the wood clean.

Using the Scraper

A paint scraper or a putty knife will work best for removing paint and varnish once it’s soft enough, but make sure you get plastic instead of metal, unless you’re extremely comfortable doing this already. Plastic is less likely to damage the wood than a sharp metal edge. Hold it at an angle of about 30 degrees, and scrape in the direction of the wood’s grain.

Working with Detail

Image via Flickr by mccun934
Image via Flickr by mccun934

If you’re stripping paint or varnish off of wood with a lot of detail work, use a small paint brush to get the stripper worked into the details. When you’re ready to remove it, try something with bristles like an old toothbrush. Don’t try to get the scraper into the details; you might nick the wood.

Stripping old paint or varnish from your wooden fixtures and furniture is a great way to give them new life. A new coat of paint or a new wood finish is perfect to get an old piece matching your new decor.

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