Moderators: Random Orbital Bob, nev, CHJ, Noel, Charley

 Reply
By KatieFrith
#1065986
Hi,

I'm a novice to woodworking/restoration so apologies if these questions seem naive.

I recently bought a second hand Ercol table and chairs set - small rectangular drop leaf table and four goldsmith windsor chairs. They are made of elm I believe and are stained dark.

I would like to remove the dark stain and restore the furniture to its natural wood state. My plan is to hire a small sander to remove the stain, and then I will oil the furniture afterwards. I know the chairs will be fiddly so will start with the table and see how it turns out.

Does this seem like a sensible way to go about such a job? I know some people would use chemical strippers, but I am wary of damaging the wood.

Thanks in advance
Katie
By phil.p
#1065990
I suspect you will find it difficult to remove the colour, as it probably is not only a coloured finish but the wood is probably dyed underneath it. You could try rubbing through an inconspicuous place, underneath maybe, and see how deep the colour is.
User avatar
By ED65
#1066190
KatieFrith wrote:My plan is to hire a small sander to remove the stain
Apologies, but this is a really bad plan if you're new to sanding Katie.

Sanding off old finish is usually a lot more effort than guides online suggest, and anyway all good finishing books agree chemical stripping is a much better way to remove old finish. Some will even go so far as to say that sanding should be never be used to remove old finish.

Because of recent changes in what's permitted in strippers (due to mothering EU regs) they're not as aggressive as they used to be but much safer for the casual user. They work more slowly but should still get the work done if you follow the instructions closely. If you don't mind fumes and want something more aggressive an alternative is buying a 5L jug of a solvent directly from a chemical supplier for a very reasonable sum and a few of these ship throughout the UK without P&P. You should be able to get something that'll soften and remove whatever finish this is, be it a varnish or a lacquer.

There's a small chance this is finished in shellac, if so you'd only need meths to get it off which is readily available in all DIY centres etc.
User avatar
By ED65
#1066559
KatieFrith wrote:If I used a stripper would I need to sand afterwards.?
Sometimes you need to smooth the wood after stripping yes, depends a little on the stripper and its instructions. Some commercial strippers require washing down afterwards with water to neutralise remaining traces and water will usually raise the grain to some degree.

Raised grain requires minimal sanding to remove and can be done (should be done in fact) manually. Just a few passes with 180-220 grit should be enough, you're seeking to remove only the swollen grain and nothing else.

KatieFrith wrote:I'm looking for a finish to bring the grain out, similar to the table top on this page

http://homesweethomestore.co.uk/shop/er ... f-table-2/
I'd say there's a very good chance that wasn't just oiled. That pronounced emphasis of the grain isn't natural to the wood, so some type of staining was used in the finishing process (with the excess wiped off very well while the stain was wet or stained, left to dry and then the surface lightly sanded off, leaving stain in the grain. Then the final finish would be applied.

Were you intending your table to be a user? Oiling is a good, easy-to-do, non-toxic finish for pieces where looks are the main aim but it doesn't impart a lot of protection to wood unfortunately. For a table intended to take drinks glasses etc. and to withstand scuffs and scrapes from regular use I'd want to use varnish myself.
By Jake
#1066578
You can still buy dichloro based stripper without proving industrial user status, as there are various online places which sell 5l cans of adhesive label remover which is apparently not a use controlled in the same way, but it is, remarkably, exactly the same thing. It isn't nice stuff though, but is very effective.
By rob.
#1066656
Is there a chance that this table may have a dark grain filler? I stripped an oak table a few years back with nitromores but it wouldn't touch the grain filler, it looked awful and took a huge amount of work to set right.
Also, because the table was built with staining in mind they didn't really care too much about matching the colour of the wood they used.
I seem to remember it was really hard work, even with chemicals.
User avatar
By ED65
#1066871
Jake wrote:You can still buy dichloro based stripper without proving industrial user status, as there are various online places which sell 5l cans of adhesive label remover which is apparently not a use controlled in the same way, but it is, remarkably, exactly the same thing. It isn't nice stuff though, but is very effective.
Good to know Jake, thanks. Now if I could only locate somewhere that sells label remover locally!

I was reading something on the "non toxic" strippers, those that usually come in plastic bottles instead of in tins, and they do work just as well despite many bad reports. Apparently a lot of the frustrations are to do with users unrealistically expecting them to work in the same timeframe as the pongy type.
User avatar
By ED65
#1066874
rob. wrote:Is there a chance that this table may have a dark grain filler? I stripped an oak table a few years back with nitromores but it wouldn't touch the grain filler
That might be an oil stain, they can be a right PITA to deal with when they're old. They become much more resistant to solvents and sitting below the main surface as they do in deep grain like this makes it all the harder for any stripping agents to get at.

For a top or large flat areas I'd try scraping, but I'd probably end up resorting to planing off a layer to get back to fresh wood.
User avatar
By ED65
#1067001
Thinners isn't enough to tackle cured oil or a varnish mixture, they become completely insoluble in their original solvent given enough time which is why we can get away with cleaning off wax polish with copious amounts of white spirit if the finish needs a top up.
By A_Kempy
#1284037
Hi Katie, I’ve just found your discussion as I search for the best way to strip two ercol quaker chairs back to their original wood - they are dark stained/varnished - in just wondering if you had any luck, and what method/product you used in the end? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.