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Old 08-04-2013, 10:15 PM   #1
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restoring 1920s staircase/bannister/bats


Hello,

We are onto our next project, restoring our old, worn, but potentially beautiful staircase.

So far we have tried to remove almost a century of several layers on top of each other of varnish. Yuk! We have scraped, used stripped, and steel wool. But the many lines of detail and curves on the bannister and bats hold the old gunk fastidiously.

Clean up with thinner/spirits is also a real mess.

We have made too many gauges from slipping as it requires a lot of force to scrape off in some places.

We've used traditional stripper and the orange citrus one, the latter seems to work better except cleanup is almost impossible--we need to apply copious amounts of stripper to make it "work". And, the conventional type seems to make the wood (fir) turn grey.

Does anyone have experience with this kind of project? Any suggestion at all as to how to make this more efficient: tools, method, etc.?

Also, I'd love to post photos but I don't see that option anywhere on my (Android) phone.

Thanks to much,
Jay et al

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Old 08-16-2013, 08:30 PM   #2
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restoring 1920s staircase/bannister/bats


How can I get the grey stains out of risers?? Sort of that, they look great.

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Old 08-16-2013, 11:26 PM   #3
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One of the consequences of some chemical strippers is that they can discolor the wood. You can try bleaching but it probably will not help at this point if the chemical reaction has grayed the wood. You will just have to pick a stain dark enough to compensate.

Have you invested in pull/drag type contour scraper set yet? Important that you pull the scraper and not push it. I think they are under $20. I also bought this Dremel contour finger sander as a joke at a hardware store parking lot sale. I think they retail for $90 but I paid $10. I was going to give it away as a gag gift. I used the thing more than I ever imagined I would for situations just like yours. It has sanding block profiles to match grooves, curves and things. You slip sand paper tubes over them.

Of course you know to scrape in layers and not to try and drag everything on there in one pass? And nothing is more dangerous or less effective than a dull scraper blade.






Your goal in stripping wood is to produce the least amount of heat as possible. Melting the finish just allows it to flow into the wood grain. An old timer trick taught me if that happens is to shellac your stripped wood. Then strip out the shellac and the pigment adhered to it.

I used to hire a woman stripper to do staircases for me. She had a nifty chemical system that recycled the stripping fluids and filtered out the varnish and paint. She was cheaper than I was.

You might want to post your graying wood question to the sister woodworking site. I think you can find the link on the bottom of your screen.

And by the way, you might buy some brass wool from a woodworking store or online. Steel wool fragments left behind can oxidize/rust and flash up through your final finish.

Last edited by user1007; 08-17-2013 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:03 AM   #4
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restoring 1920s staircase/bannister/bats


Sdsester,

Wow, such a helpful response. Thank you.

Now it comes to my mind that indeed, it was the stairs stripped with conventional stripper that turned grey on risers. I do think those stripped withe the orange/citrus fared better. The bleach did help, but not enough to please me.

I saw a contour set mentioned elsewhere in the forum, but did not understand what it meant. Now I see from your pictures and can search-- don't seem to be in stock at our local big box stores.

I also have used the Dremel since my original post. I'll search out the sander you mention, and decide then. We've been using a brass wire pad on a drill which helps but sometimes gauges if we hang in one spot too long.

Overall, I just really wish I had all of this advice when we started (or perhaps I did, but didn't understand it then). Though functional, the staircase probably could have been restored beautifully if we set out with the right tools (or found someone like your lady!). But now, we'll just try to finish up right, and likely stain dark as necessary, as you recommend.

Thanks again.

We'll p
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:58 PM   #5
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Your real paint store probably has contour scrapers of some kind. And a seasoned, full time employee with full medical benefits for the family that knows what you are asking about. Screw box stores that killed little retailers where you are, pay a lower property tax rate than Mom and Pop businesses and you do. And give nothing back to communities in which the operate but part time, minimum wages jobs.

Worse comes to worse. Order on online. Amazon popped up with two brands under $14.

And by the way, we all learn as we go. At least you are taking the time to try and restore your staircase. Some would have grabbed a gallon of Behr or similar crap and slopped on a coat of paint.

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Old 08-17-2013, 11:25 PM   #6
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Take your time as you know prep is KEY! Please post some pics when you're done I'm sure it will be nice.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:05 PM   #7
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Some times when stripping a set of dental picks can make life a little easier.

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