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Strip resistant finish – Michael Dresdner

Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Strip resistant finish

Q: I’ve been in the refinishing business for years, but have just been stumped and need your help. An end table stained red mahogany was brought in for top only refinish due to white water stains splattered all over the surface. It had a very hard semi gloss sheen-finish on it. After stripping, I’ve found this appears to be possibly plastic, since the commercial stripper did nothing to it The apron is particle board with veneer. Please advise what to do, it’s a commercial customer.
A: If I read your question correctly, you put stripper on a thick finish and it did not budge it. That sounds like a polyester finish, which will resist most common strippers and is often used on imported furniture, or possibly a very aggressive cross linked acrylic or polyurethane. You have two choices. If the wood below is solid, not veneer, you can remove the finish mechanically, either with a heat gun or belt sander. A heat gun will not melt the finish, but will cause it to crack and lift from the wood, allowing you to get a putty knife beneath it and zipper it off. It’s tedious, but it works.
If the wood is veneer, the other option is better. Get a boosted stripper, often called marine stripper, and be prepared for the long haul. Boosted strippers are high methylene chloride content strippers modified with either a strong acid or base (curiously, either works to supercharge the stripper.) Get a paste type stripper, daub it on very thickly, then drape the piece with a sheet of clear plastic film to prevent the active solvents from evaporating. You may even need to add stripper if it starts to dry, but keep the piece wet as long as it takes to remove the finish, even if that is days instead of hours. Eventually, it will come off.
Because this is a commercial shop, I will point out that on an end table, it is often cheaper to replace the top than to refinish it.