Friday, April 30, 2010

Stripper Lessons

Back in 2003 when I moved to New York, I was going through a real "Shabby Chic" phase where put linen slipcovers on all my furniture and painted everything white. Now that I'm a little older (ugh, where did those seven years go?), and have developed a more complex sense of style, it kills me to look at all that white paint and think of the pretty mahogany or oak hidden underneath it. So, slowly but surely, I am determined to remove as much of it as I can from the pretty antique pieces worth saving. I had been warned that stripping furniture is a messy, unpleasant and toxic job. To be clear, just breathing near these chemicals will likely take a few hours off your lifespan (just don't say I didn't tell you so when you're all light-headed afterward).  Ah, the price we pay for beauty. 

So, I decided to start small and strip a pretty mohogany mirror that my mom and I had picked up at an antiques mall back in the 90s. Obviously, JM was disappointed when I told him I was "stripping" and he came home to find me wearing a protective facemask and gloves and spraying noxious chemicals all over our patio, but he and I were both pretty pleased with the results- a mirror for our hallway that is very chic and decidedly not too shabby. And while I may not be able to finish the Times crossword puzzle anymore due to brain-cell death, the process was surprisingly easy.  Here's how to strip and refinish wood furniture (the stripping process is similar for metal, but the finishing would be different). I may just get started on.... wait, what was I talking about, again?

Step 1:Apply the stripper directly onto the painted surface. I used a spray stripper, but I've heard that there are paste/gels that work very well. I'm fake posing for the picture, but if you are actually using this stuff definitely wear gloves (trust me- this stuff will burn a whole in your hand). Spray it all over- don't be shy about it.

Step 2: After the amount of time specified on the container (usually 5-10 minutes) you'll notice that the paint is bubbling away from the surface. Use a plastic throw-away scraper trowel thingy to scrape off the paint. This is a very satisfying process. When you finish, there will likely be a few stubborn patches (usually in corners and seams). Just apply more stripper to those spots, and repeat the process.

Step 3: Using a fine sandpaper, sand the whole piece, removing any last bits of paint and varnish that are on there. Be thorough, lazybones.

Step 4: Using a disposable brush (and wearing those gloves again, please), apply a stain to all of the wood. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a clean rag. If you would like it be to darker, repeat this process until you have reached your desired shade.  Let dry completely (at least overnight).  If desired, apply a coat of polyurethane finish to give it a glossy look.

Enjoy the stripshow.


Katie said...

Thank you for the tutorial. I always thought stripping wood would be a hard process, but you made it look very easy. I'm always scared to paint wood because I think it wouldn't come off, but I don't have any more fears.

Lily said...

Yeah! It's gross, but it's easy peasy! Go for it!