Not built in a day, that’s what. 

Or, you know, stripped of paint as the case may be.

I hoped I might be lucky with the refinishing of our Craigslist dining table so that it went from Before to After inside of a week.   Alas, it was not to be.  The girl at the hardware store can’t have ever used the product she recommended, because it was NOT at all Oh just use a little of it and the paint comes right off.  No.  The reality is that it takes multiple applications, more paint stripper than you would think, a lot of waiting time, and quite a bit of elbow grease to get a single layer of factory finish off our white and yellow farmhouse table.

God bless my mother, who spent part of her vacation with us last week getting paint off the crooks and crannies of turned table legs!  Thanks, Mom :)   She left me with the (easy, flat) tabletop to handle and the last of the paint on two of the four legs. 

This was my first time using paint/varnish stripper so it was a new process.  The Chief  has a chip on his shoulder about this and claims that the overly careful State of California has made all the chemicals that actually work illegal, so maybe if you live in a different state your paint stripping will go more quickly.   Here’s how the process goes for us.

First: We worked outside and it wasn’t as smelly as we’d feared, which was nice.  A faint chemical odor was there but it wasn’t bad.  We skipped dust masks but wore rubber gloves and closed toed shoes because it turns out the chemicals sting if they touch your skin!  No burns, but you will get a pretty good sting for a minute.  It didn’t seem to damage clothing either.

Here’s a closeup of the table leg.  This is AFTER two previous applications of paint stripper.

This is the product we used.  We got both the liquid version (best for horizontal surfaces) and the paste/gel version, which does a better job staying in place on curves and non-horizontal surfaces.

The first step was to brush on the paint stripper.  I’m finding that dabbing it as goopily and thick as I can works best.  This is Mom in the photo here, wearing open shoes for posed photo demonstration purposes only!

After the stripper is applied, you cover it with plastic wrap so the chemicals don’t evaporate before they do their work, and you walk away for at least 15 minutes or as directed.

You come back to find that the finish has partially bubbled up! (not shown, sorry)

Plastic scrapers, steel wool, and brass bristle brushes are all useful in removing what the chemicals have loosened.

Repeat as necessary… maybe a few more times that you would like to have to deal with. 

The tabletop is definitely going more easily than the crossgrain and crevices of the turned legs.  I can do a third of the surface at a time.

After one application of the paint stripper, about half the finish has come off:

I’m going to give it one more application and then grab my hand sander and take off anything that’s left with 100 grit.

I’m hoping to finish this table up by next weekend… but we’ll see how it goes!

Have you ever embarked on a refinishing odyssey?  How did it go for you?

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