Stripping Down

November 1, 2009

I heart strippers. 

No not those kind.  I knew your mind would go there. 

No, I like the kind of strippers that take layers of paint off an old piece of furniture.

Last week, I was working on a dresser and nightstand combo for my brother’s bachelor pad.  I found this set at the local thrift for $25 dollars for the pair.  They’re solid wood !  However, the chipped pistachio green paint job was not the shade we were going for. 

So with the help of a chemical stripper, I took them from this:

dresser and nightstand

To this:

dresser final from side

I picked these pieces because of their modern streamlined design and the pewter hardware.  Also because they were inexpensive and the perfect size for his small bedroom space.  He rents in San Francisco where large bedrooms are very rare.  I thought it a good idea to strip the paint off of the pieces to get right to the wood so we could start over with primer and paint.  A chemical stripper was the fastest answer. 

I’ve used Klean-Strip chemical stripper before on my staircase to remove layers of varnish.  Chemical strippers are nasty to say the least.  The old school versions like these use methelyne chloride and are extremely toxic.  They require gloves and plenty of ventilation.  In addition, one must always take the proper precautions with the removal of potentially lead based paint.

These days you can find safer greener products that use alternative ingredients to remove paint.  A grand idea but with one small drawback – those products typically take a lot longer to get the end result.  Shame on me, but I’m terribly impatient.  So I reused the chemical stripper I already had because it works so darn fast. 

klean strip

Wearing gloves, I spread the product over the surface with a paper towel.  After a few minutes, it started to bubble. 

stripper in action

Wowza.  This stuff worked fast.  You can purchase a special plastic tool to scrape off the paint.  I just used my chisel. 

stripper and chisel

It’s remarkable how well this product works to remove layers of old paint.  Once I was down to the primer level, I whipped out my Black & Decker sander with a 220 fine sanding pad to get down to the raw wood.

black and decker

A second application of the stripper would likely have removed the primer as well, but since I wanted to smooth out the surface, I went right to the sander. 

After the stripper removed the paint, I spray primed with two coats of gray primer. 

spray primer

Then I finished these pieces off the fast way:  with two coats of Rustoleum’s ‘London Gray’ spray paint, a beautiful mushroom gray color.  For the front detail, I mixed up some metallic taupe and black craft paint to create a pewter color.   Then I painted it by hand for a suble tone on tone effect. 

Chipped Pistachio Paint Before:

nate before

Scrumptious Muted Gray After:

nate after

nates final from right

So sleek !   And doesn’t the hardware now look like it belongs?  I wouldn’t think to replace it.  I love the pewter tone and the intricate design of these pulls.  Sheeesh, the $25 bucks I paid for them was worth it just for the hardware.  My brother was so delighted, he made a special trip just to pick them up and bring them to his pad in San Francisco.  Next weekend, we’ll put the finishing touches on his room.  That is, if I dare go near the Bay Area.  Did you hear what happened to the Bay Bridge ?

Now about those strippers.  There is a lot of great information available out there for anyone looking at removing paint from wall trim, furniture, or other wood finishes.  Here’s a great article by DIY Network.  This Old House posted about safer stripper products taking over the market.  And as always, Layla and Kevin at The Lettered Cottage blog are continuously fixing up their place, so check out their recent post on using a Citrustrip Gel to take several layers of paint off an old door.

Have you ever stripped ?  Wait, that didn’t come out right. 

If you have ever used a stripper product to remove paint, I’d love to hear your experience, especially with the newer safer products.

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