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Old 03-26-2012, 06:58 PM   #1
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Refinishing old window/door frames


I am looking to refinish my old window and door frames. They are original, and the varnish/finish they used is starting to crack and looks basically like a dried up desert. I wan to remove the old finish and put a new finish on to really bring our the grain. Two ideas have come to mind:

1.) Use a product like Zinser fast zip to strip them, then refinish.
2.) Use a fine grit sand paper to see if I could simply sand off the old finish.

Does anyone have experience with refinishing wood that has looked like this before? Any advice on products, tips, etc is always helpful and appreciated!

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Old 03-26-2012, 07:05 PM   #2
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Refinishing old window/door frames


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Old 03-27-2012, 07:12 AM   #3
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Refinishing old window/door frames


How old is old??????? I am guessing 75+ yrs. If yes, that is likely shellac and can actually be smoothed out easily. But try a low visibility spot to test first. Rub with denatured alcohol. If I am right, it will disolve the shellac and you can smooth it out without stripping.
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Old 03-27-2012, 10:45 AM   #4
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Refinishing old window/door frames


I think that would work, these frames are easily 75+ years old!
Any suggestions on a finish I could put on after I get the shellac removed?
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:58 AM   #5
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Refinishing old window/door frames


I think Just Bill was suggesting you see if denatured alcohol would react with the shellac on the trim (if that is what it is) and blend what you have out without stripping it? Assuming you want to keep the color.

When stripping trim like that I always try to achieve the least amount of heat possible as heating the coating can melt it into the wood grain.

So, start with a very sharp pull type scraper and see how that goes. You may be surprised. If it works on the flat areas you can buy a contour scraper set for about $20 for the rest of the trim.

Sanding is the next thing to try I guess although the material can gum up the paper, especially with a power sander. And the heat can melt the material down into the grain.

Chemical strippers would be another conventional option. Look for some of the newer gel types remembering older liquid strippers are highly explosive and the fumes are heavier than air. Pilot lights can ignite them.

New kid on the block is an infrared stripper and they are wonderful. You can rent one but there are usually waiting lists as soon as people start using them for exterior work this time of year. If you have extra cash you can buy one for $400 with most bells and whistles. Use it for as long as you need it then turn around and sell it. You will have no trouble and this may be cheaper than renting. Infrared strippers will heat up layers and layers of paint at once without creating a fire hazard like a heat gun.

Once you get most varnish or whatever is on there off you may find there is still a fair amount in the grain. If it is not shellac to start, apply a coat of shellac. Hopefully the shellac will stick to most of what is hiding in the grain. Strip the shellac and all it is stuck to away and you will be as close as you are going to get to stripping all the finish.

Make any needed repairs. Sand and prep the surface for staining.

You will want to pick a stain color that is going to blend with any discoloration of the stripped wood. Try a bit of transparent stain on an inconspicuous section. You might have better luck and be better able to blend in discoloration with gel stains.

Once whatever stain is dry, I would coat with a polyurethane as such products are less prone to yellowing than spar varnishes.
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Old 03-28-2012, 03:13 PM   #6
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Refinishing old window/door frames


Thanks Sdester. Odds are that I would be using a liquid stripper, so the gel I can give a shot and others have reccommended them as well. Any suggestions on how to get the frames off smoothly?
Just a good old prybar and piece of scrap wood?
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:19 PM   #7
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Refinishing old window/door frames


Starting when you have removed everything and are ready to finish. Do your staining. Use of a stain controller is sometimes advisable, but not in every case. As a sealer, use Zinsser Seal Coat. This is a de-waxed shellas and is compatible with most everything, including water-based polyurethanes. WB Polyurethanes are an excellent choice, they do not continue to amber and are a very abrasion-resistant finish. Flecto Varathane Diamond, Zar or Minwax should be great finishes for you.

You will love the end result and look at it with pride when you are done.
Good luck on your project.
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Old 03-28-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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Refinishing old window/door frames


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Originally Posted by dukes32 View Post
Thanks Sdester. Odds are that I would be using a liquid stripper, so the gel I can give a shot and others have reccommended them as well. Any suggestions on how to get the frames off smoothly?
Just a good old prybar and piece of scrap wood?
Do you need to pull the trim? No way to strip it in place? It is easier off but make sure you mark each piece with a marker, not tape.

Must have tools for antique home renovation is a pair of nice, strong, flat bars. And as you know, blocks of wood to leverage against. Safety glasses are not a bad idea either. Friends had blacksmiths make their flat bars but a good name brand steel one will work. Big Lots was liquidating nice Stanley flat bars, still forged and tempered in the USA at the time, and I bought a bunch for chimp change. You do not want a piece of cheap Chinese box store or Harbor Freight steel for a flat bar. I am not saying the Chinese cannot forge and temper steel but if you see two flat bars next to each other, one for $5 and the other for $15 some of the difference may be brand name but...

Edge the flat bar down behind the trim. Try to think through how and the direction the trim was nailed on and pull in exactly the opposite angle/direction. Go slow and listen for the nails squeaking out and feel your way. The second flat bar comes in handy if you need to leapfrog your way along. You will get the hang of it. Exercise patience or you will split the trim. Remember they used real steel finishing nails in the day!

Some argue that a sawsall works but that leaves pieces of nails in two surfaces you then have to deal with.

NEVER EVER TRY TO POUND A NAIL BACK OUT OF ANTIQUE TRIM (or any trim for that matter). Pull it all the way through the backside, or do what I have a time or two and just grind the extended portion of the nail off if you have tons of something like flooring or baseboard to de-nail. If you try to pound it out you will split or damage the surface since the odds of the nail being straight are slim to no chance. Better to damage the backside of the trim than leave a bent nail gouge in the front. And pulling it out the back is the shortest distance right?

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Last edited by user1007; 03-28-2012 at 05:16 PM.
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