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Thread: info on stripper chest

  1. #1
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    info on stripper chest

    Made ya look.

    I have a dresser that is approx 1920 vintage or a bit earlier, poplar, doweled sides on the drawers, back nailed, real silvered mirror . It was my mothers growing up so I know it wasnt new when she got it. It isnt a great dresser as in worth a lot as a antique. I was going to leave it alone, however it has come to the point where it is going to start living upstairs and I really took a good look at it and just cant do it. (Like I need another project) It is rough. My mom liked refinishing furniture so I kind of doubt she would mind.

    Looks like it lived in a basement or garage where cans were placed on it. The top is covered in rings and flaking off. I know the top layer is shellac because alcohol can be used to remove it. Under the shellac, it looks antiqued, no idea with what or how they did it, or when it was done. Besides 80grit, any suggestions?




    The plan is to strip it as best as I can get it, then do a black cherry stain and oil finish it. I hate poly and am willing to put in two extra weeks to do it. I did a old Lane side table and it came out well. Deep color, you could see some grain and it had a slight purple tint.
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    Senior Member Big Al1's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Try some Howards finish repair, it may save you the trouble of stripping it! http://howardproducts.com/

    The guy that refinished my Mom's old table told me about it, I was skeptical at first, but the stuff really works! You can find it at Home Depot!

    Looks like a fun project!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Which finish will it repair? Its down to wood in places, the antiquing in others, and shellac on most. It has to come off, or be painted which I dont want, but might be a viable option.
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.

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    Senior Member Big Al1's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    It fixes any kind of finish, but if it's gone in places don't know if it would help. When my table was done, they took it a another shop to have it stripped. They have a big dunk tank to put large pieces in. That might be another option if there's someplace you can take. The stripping is the worst part!

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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Art deco. I personally would take it to a pro and have it stripped. Shouldn't be too pricey, sand it well and then finish it with a French polish, which is shellac thinned with alcohol and rubbed it...several coats. With steel wood between coats. Maybe finish with rottenstone.

    It'll look great!
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    That thing's gonna make a mess. Put it on a tarp when you strip it. May be worth having it done as Gene said.
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), not to be confused with Cottonwood (Populus) which is commonly referred to as "Poplar", tends to become very hard and somewhat brittle as it ages. It was commonly used for general, run-of-the-mill type furniture back when this piece was made. It can be very beautiful, however, so don't discount it as cheap furniture. My living room walls are paneled with it, and the floors of Andrew Jackson's home, the "Hermitage" are made of it. Both are extremely beautiful. The side strips of the drawers in your dresser are most probably made out of quarter sawn Sycamore (Platanus), and these will never, ever, ever, never wear out! You've got a job stripping and staining that dresser....have fun!

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    Senior Member zorba's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al1 View Post
    It fixes any kind of finish, but if it's gone in places don't know if it would help.
    As I understand it, Howard's partially dissolves the existing finish so you can spread it around. It also apparently adds new finish at the same time. I re-did the finish on my piano with it, it worked very well - then I followed it up with a several coats of "Deft".
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    Senior Member cpj's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    What info? The name of her parole officer? Or her 3 bastard children's names?
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Quote Originally Posted by woodsrunner View Post
    Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), not to be confused with Cottonwood (Populus) which is commonly referred to as "Poplar", tends to become very hard and somewhat brittle as it ages. It was commonly used for general, run-of-the-mill type furniture back when this piece was made. It can be very beautiful, however, so don't discount it as cheap furniture. My living room walls are paneled with it, and the floors of Andrew Jackson's home, the "Hermitage" are made of it. Both are extremely beautiful. The side strips of the drawers in your dresser are most probably made out of quarter sawn Sycamore (Platanus), and these will never, ever, ever, never wear out! You've got a job stripping and staining that dresser....have fun!
    Woods, my mother grew up in a shack. There is a pic around of her with the reins about 12 foot up driving a hay wagon at 5. I can guarantee the dresser was not high quality or new when it came to their home. There isnt a dovetail to be found, but the drawers are pegged not nailed so it wasnt a complete piece of scrap. Its still better that 80% of what passes for furniture today.

    Tulip poplar is pretty common and this feels like it. Very light and still soft. I have run into it redoing stuff with walnut veneers and this seems close. If I can get whatever this coating off, I will try to get a pic of the grain.
    Last edited by Varmintmist; 11-06-2016 at 08:34 PM.
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    Senior Member calebib's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    A scraper might do a better job than sanding, wood that hard can be hard to get sanding marks out of later on, too. Scrapers can get the wood far smoother and flatter than any paper.

    As for chemical strippers I like Zip Strip, just make certain to use chemical resistant gloves. That stuff WILL burn you if you get it on your skin!


    This is a great scraper and not too spendy.
    http://www.rockler.com/bahco-ergo-carbide-scraper

  12. #12
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Cool stuff on the piece





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    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    calebib, the wood is not that hard. Where the finish was pretty beat, I sanded down to wood to see what I was working with. Soft, very light grain and not much color. Thats why I am leaning poplar.
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    Moderator Jayhawker's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Initially, I would go at it with Zip Strip, a scraper, and an old toothbrush (for the corners and crevices)...
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    When you get it stripped down to where the wood grain can be seen pretty good, get some photos of it showing the grain as best as you can. In the one photo, that with the two knobs, the sanded part on the right makes me wonder a little. Not clear enough to be anywhere near sure, but it may not be Poplar! I'm withholding judgment hoping for several other better photos!

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    Re: info on stripper chest

    I'm sure there is special chemical stripper for wood but I've successfully used aircraft remover. It works great but you have to neutralize it with a mix of soapy water and baking soda when its all bare.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Aircraft remover?

    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.

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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rocketman View Post
    I'm sure there is special chemical stripper for wood but I've successfully used aircraft remover. It works great but you have to neutralize it with a mix of soapy water and baking soda when its all bare.
    Like you, I don't know about using that on wood, but I will say it works great removing auto finishes.
    Last edited by coolgunguy; 11-07-2016 at 02:21 AM.
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    Senior Member BigDanS's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Well there going to be doing it, and then doing it right.

    Doing it... Cheap and easy, sand and paint. Done.

    That was not a high end piece of furniture when it was new, and doing a spectacular refinish isn't going to make it into one either. Kind of like buying an MN 91/30 and stripping the finish and trying to give it a hi gloss stock.

    It will take several days in sections to strip that. Strype Eeze might work well, but I have always liked Formby's products. Each surface will likely need two, if not three attempts to get it clear of the old finish. Once stripped you are going to want to steam out the old dents in the wood itself. It of course depends on the detail and time you want to put into it.

    Just don't expect to get a high end piece of furniture out of it in the end.

    D
    Last edited by BigDanS; 11-07-2016 at 03:09 AM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Sand and paint is what I want to avoid. I dont like painted or antiqued furniture. I know it isnt a high end piece, said that already, but I have to strip it to see if there is any grain to bring up. The finish is a shellac over NFI (no idea) and sometimes you have to peel the bark to figure out what kind of tree it is. I should take a pic of the side table I redid that was walnut veneers framed by poplar. The original was stained a opaque brown on the poplar and the walnut was finished. I did about 6 coats of Tung over a black cherry stain, starting with sanding in a 50-50 tung/mineral spirits. I did a antiqued over antiqued over gold leaf on a hutch that originally went with a cupboard. The parents got it at a used furniture place and the hutch became a bookcase after we could afford stuff. My mom is the one who antiqued it, twice. After I sanded it (for weeks) I found that it was poplar and walnut veneers. I stained it and polyed it and it is still a book case. She saw it and mentioned that if she had known what was under the stuff she covered, she would have kept it.

    Not my first rodeo, but I do NOT want to give my life to the sander again.

    If I do end up painting it, the outside is pretty cuffed up so sanding will be part of it. One of the things about paint, is character marks are just dents under paint. Gloss black is the chosen color if I go that way.

    I am getting more curious about the date of birth on this thing though.

    With some interwebbing, I am thinking closer to 1860's, still not a high end piece, but the pattern is similar.
    Last edited by Varmintmist; 11-07-2016 at 04:02 AM.
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Hey, let me point something out....!

    A piece of furniture that would have been considered "run-of-the -mill in 1916, is pretty darn well made by 2016 standards! I'm betting that this piece will be beautiful properly refinished where the wood will show! It's a production piece for sure, and isn't in the "James Kranov League" naturally, but I'm betting that its better made than 90% of what you can buy today...."afford to buy" maybe I should say!

  22. #22
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    OK, still not down to the wood, I have to find some ammonia to test if it is milk paint because the last coat is laughing at the chem stripper.

    What I have found is a pretty close date, and style.

    It is a Shaker style, maybe Shaker made. I am tending to a builder that did shaker style in the same time frame. Shaker was in its hey day in the late 1800's and the stuff was functional with form. Not a lot of decoration. The drawers were dovetailed normally big on the bottom and getting smaller as it got higher without locks. This one is pegged, equal sized on the bottom with the hanky drawers on top and has locks. That doesnt mean it isnt Shaker, but I am thinking not. I also cant find a victorian type mirror on a shaker dresser anywhere.

    The screw head slots are home cut which puts their date of manufacture about 1845. The locks are rolled steel, but not stamped, so pre 1900. The tacks/nails look forged and handmade. I havent pulled any. The backsplash on the upper part looks added. There are old phillips screws and the wood doesnt match any part of the chest.
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Ok, the project that ate my life is about done.
    ref pic
    stripperchest1_edited-1_zpsqu4urbdi.jpg

    It was milk paint. I reverted to 80 grit to take it off. The chest is a cheap 1930's in the shaker style made of poplar. I used Minwax special walnut after conditioner and tried a "wipe on" poly that is supposed to look like a hand rubbed finish. Waste of money. Finished with satin poly.

    stripperd1.jpgstripperd2.jpgstripperside.jpgstrippertop.jpg

    The tabs for the mirror have been reglued and are drying so tonight I should be able to put the whole thing together.

    There are a lot of "character" marks left simply because to take them out I would have to change the thickness of the wood a whole lot.

    One thing I learned is that if I ever have something that might be interesting that wasnt in the family and it is milk painted, I will burn it before I strip it.
    Last edited by Varmintmist; 10-12-2017 at 09:02 PM.
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    Senior Member Big Al1's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    WOW! That turned out great. Glad you got to preserve Mom's old dressing table!

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    Re: info on stripper chest

    That's gonna be nice
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    Senior Member tennmike's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    You did a good job bringing it back to life. That should be really nice when you're finally finished with it. I don't have the patience for that kind of work.
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    Senior Member Varmintmist's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    And last but not least..

    stripperchest5.jpgstripperchest8.jpg

    It came out OK. My patience with it finally did wear thin and it came down to good enough. Getting the milk paint off and the coats of "other", then the soft wood that is about 90 years old and was as dry as a popcorn fart....

    It is probably more that I know where all the mistakes are.
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    Senior Member knitepoet's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheriff Jim Wilson on FB
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  29. #29
    Senior Member Six-Gun's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Cane out great! You assuredly have more patience than I have.
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    Senior Member zorba's Avatar
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    Re: info on stripper chest

    Looks beautiful to me!
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