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Expert's Corner — remover

Stripping with Solvent

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With shellac and lacquer finishes, which are the finishes used on almost all old furniture and woodwork, you can use their solvent for stripping instead of a paint-and-varnish remover. Depending on the object being stripped, I often find this method easier in the sense of spending less total time. It’s also less messy. Use denatured alcohol for shellac and lacquer thinner for lacquer. You can test the finish to find out which it is by dabbing a little of each solvent onto the finish. The alcohol will soften shellac and make it sticky or remove it. Lacquer thinner will do...

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TIP: Wash Off Stripper Wax

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Directions on cans of paint-and-varnish remover instruct to “neutralize” the stripper as a final step. This is misleading and often leads to finishing problems. The instruction is misleading because there is nothing in paint strippers that needs to be neutralized. “Neutralizing” refers to acids and bases, not solvents. What needs to be done with all paint strippers sold in metal cans is remove the wax they contain. Manufacturers add wax to these products to retard evaporation so the stripper remains in contact with the paint or finish longer. This wax will retard the drying and weaken the bonding of most...

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TIP: Dry Off NMP Residue

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Paint and varnish removers sold in plastic containers contain the solvent n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) as the active ingredient. This solvent is relatively expensive, so manufacturers often mix in other solvents to reduce the cost. But it’s the NMP that does the majority of the work. NMP has less solvent strength than the methylene chloride and the other solvents used in strippers sold in cans. Just the packaging, plastic vs. metal, tells you this. The reason NMP is still effective is that it evaporates extremely slowly, so it can remain wet on the paint or finish for days if necessary. I...

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

Alcohol dissolves shellac, and lacquer thinner dissolves lacquer. So you can use these solvents instead of paint-and-varnish remover for stripping. The advantage is that you don’t have to then remove the wax residue or dry off the lingering n-methyl-pyrrolidone solvent. The disadvantage is that it’s more difficult to strip complex three-dimensional surfaces. But alcohol and lacquer thinner are easy to use on flat surfaces such as tabletops. Simply wet some rags or paper towels with the solvent and lay them on the surface. Keep them wet by pouring on more solvent until the finish has liquefied and you can wipe...

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