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cr1spin

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I like to restore old furniture, I have done quite a few in my time, however removing the old stain and varnish from tables etc can often be quite laboured and time consuming. I normally sand with a random orbit which works pretty well but it can still be a very long and extremely messy process. I tried an electric planer but even on the lowest setting this leaves cutting grooves between the strokes which then need to be sanded. Electric planers are really intended for narrow cuts such as door edges etc. Is there a tool which can quickly and effectively remove all the top layer of varnish and stain quickly and easily, a hand planer maybe?
 

cr1spin

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Ok thank you, just seen one online and read the reviews which seems to be pretty positive. If it works and is effective this could be a life changer mate!
 

robgul

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Carbide scraper - the Bahco ones are brilliant (have a look at Our Furniture Flipping Adventure on YT - she's done a short video this week that uses hand scrapers

--https://www.youtube.com/shorts/eZ9qvCwe85o-- You'll need to cut and paste link without the dashes as sending the link is disabled
 

Sgian Dubh

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any other suggestions?
Chemical stripper. Nitromors and Paramose are a couple of name brands, amongst others, to search for. Having said that most modern strippers available to non-professionals are now formulated using alternative and less aggressive chemicals than the old standby of methylene chloride which was extremely effective, and pretty fast acting. The newer formatted versions of strippers do work, so I've heard, but appear to require more time and patience. I still have access to the methylene chloride stuff and so far I've not had to source and use the newer formulations, so I can't report first hand on performance.

In addition to the stripper you'd need things like a good airflow, goggles, vapour mask, gauntlets, plastic paint kettles, stiff nylon bristle brushes, wire wool, maybe Scotchbrite abrasive pads, old toothbrushes and gunwash (aka cheap lacquer thinner), rags, paper towels, plastic sheeting, and maybe some thing(s) I've forgotten. Slainte.
 
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Richard C-D

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I'd agree with Sgian above and I always use Paramose but in the UK the sale is restricted to the trade, maybe a restorer would sell you some. If the old finish is shelac (french polish) meths will soften it enough to remove it with a paint scraper. On a table top if the finish is flaking a cabinet scraper could get most of it off.

If the furniture you're restoring is considered antique , i.e over 100 years old , I wouldn't use any sort of power tool on it, this will seriously devalue it. I've seen Georgian furniture with swirl scratches from orbital sanders and Victorian furniture where someone has sanded through the veneer. I'ts better to take a bit more time than ruin something
 

robgul

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This is about the closest I've found to work anything like Paramose (which REALLY WORKS - I used it at Peter Sefton's woo finishing course (y) ) Barrettine Paint Panther

I strip quite a few pieces, both paint and varnish, and Paint Panther certainly works well on paint - I prefer to use the Bahco scraper for varnish and then follow up with a light application of Paint Panther with wire wool . .. you then need to neutralise it with cellulose thinners (gun wash is the cheapest)
 

cr1spin

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I'd agree with Sgian above and I always use Paramose but in the UK the sale is restricted to the trade, maybe a restorer would sell you some. If the old finish is shelac (french polish) meths will soften it enough to remove it with a paint scraper. On a table top if the finish is flaking a cabinet scraper could get most of it off.

If the furniture you're restoring is considered antique , i.e over 100 years old , I wouldn't use any sort of power tool on it, this will seriously devalue it. I've seen Georgian furniture with swirl scratches from orbital sanders and Victorian furniture where someone has sanded through the veneer. I'ts better to take a bit more time than ruin something
 

cr1spin

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Thanks guys although the tables I’m restoring are just Ercol planks and drop leaves, not exactly highly desirable and rare items. They are however large and are often very dented, scratched and covered in varnish and stain which soaks into the top pores of the wood. I’ve tried the scraper plane but it’s not as aggressive as I’d hoped. If there was a tool that could quickly and effectively remove all this top layer which I could then fine sand and finish it would save me so much time. Someone at Dulux decorating suggested a cabinet scraper?
 

Inspector

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Something you might want to keep in mind if working with open pored wood like oak. I got a few oak church pews that I broke up for the wood. I made some counter tops from the backs and SWMBO wanted a black finish so I ebonized them via the steel wool in vinegar route. I had used a Kunz #12 scraper plane, cabinet scrapers and a random orbit sander from 60 through 180 grits and in the bottom of a number of grain pores the finish remained. They didn't turn black and if looking carefully you can see them. Chemical strippers would have removed them. If you are refinishing with the same stains and finishes you likely won't have any issues but a drastic colour change may be an issue. I didn't use the stripper because the original pew glue isn't waterproof and might have let go at the edge joints.

Pete
 

Inspector

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The stripper won't but the water to remove and wash down it can. Most consumer strippers sold here are used with water. VOC rules and all that.

Pete
 

Peri

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Card / No80 scraper absolutely blew me away with how easy finish was removed from - admittedly flat - surfaces.

I had some reclaimed doorframes that had multiple coats of paint and finish on them. Using the No80 removed 99% of the crud in less than 10 minutes per piece.
 

recipio

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You say restoring but in reality you are stripping the surface back to the bare wood ? This is usually a last resort and it's not clear if you mean Ercol furniture only. ? Most old furniture just needs cleaning. There is a range of Rustins cleaning and reviving agents which I find work very well. Dents and scratches can be steamed out. If the surface is french polished then an alcohol like meths will dissolve it. If it's Nitrocellulose then acetone will dissolve it. If it's lacquer nothing will dissolve it !
I know that the Ercol finishes are very tough and I would personally be reluctant to use chemicals on it. I can however recommend a 3M paint and varnish stripper wheel for Ercol. These are mounted in an electric drill and will strip any varnish or lacquer. They are however an American product and difficult to source. You may have to shop online in the US to find them. Beware that there are single and double stacked wheels and the latter are better.
If you go back to bare wood then you will need to refinish and that is the holy grail we are all looking for. :giggle:
 

Jacob

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Nitromors and other brands are supposed to be trade only but it's pretty casual. I got this but on Ebay LANGLOW Strip Away PRO - Palace Chemicals
Works really well but don't scrimp it - follow the instructions!
Helps to clean it off with handfuls of planer chippings (with long rubber gloves and other protection)
 

trvlr

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An Italian artist chum years ago used pieces of broken glass as a scraper. Glass has a very sharp edge, and can easily be broken into all manner of sizes and shapes, so as to get into awkward places. A pair of gloves might be useful at times, or a piece of something like masking tape over the non scraping edges, if worried about cutting one’s fingers whilst using glass pieces. He could remove almost any previous coatings, to leave a “very“ smooth surface. And also used the method to simply fine finish wood, preferring it sand papers various in many situations
 

--Tom--

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The Ercol pieces I’ve refinished have been scraped and sanded.
A finely set plane could be used if surfaces are very dinged up, but sounds like you aren’t that experienced and so there’s a learning curve that would need time to go through.

There’s a lot of difference between a b&q cheapy sander and something like a mirka deros, similarly between pound shop paper and abranet so worth sharing precisely what you’re using if you’re open to thoughts on tools.

Big flat expanses like table tops are a dream compared to something like a chair with spindles too, so definitely something that can be made quick and simple
 
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