Identify varnish from shelac? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
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Identify varnish from shelac?

Live in a house built by my grandfather in mid-to-late 1930s. The woodwork has a coating on it that needs attention in several places (that is what survived being painted white during the 1970s). But how can I tell what is on it so I can decide how best to prep and refinish it?
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post #2 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 06:53 PM
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Live in a house built by my grandfather in mid-to-late 1930s. The woodwork has a coating on it that needs attention in several places (that is what survived being painted white during the 1970s). But how can I tell what is on it so I can decide how best to prep and refinish it?
If you're going to refinish, it really doesn't matter since you should be stripping the old finish completely off.







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post #3 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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That's a bit more than I bargined for

I was hoping to be able to break the finish and re-coat the banister and windowsils, if at all possible. I'm a construction pipe fitter, so this is a bit out of my league, HVAC, electric, plumbing and things of that sort I am more at home with. Here I am a novice, a DIYer . . . have pity.
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post #4 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 07:16 PM
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I was hoping to be able to break the finish and re-coat the banister and windowsils, if at all possible. I'm a construction pipe fitter, so this is a bit out of my league, HVAC, electric, plumbing and things of that sort I am more at home with. Here I am a novice, a DIYer . . . have pity.
In that case, sand with 320x, and wipe on an oil base varnish, or a waterbase polyurethane. You can apply either of those over a cured finish.








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post #5 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 07:33 PM
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Can use alcohol to dissolve shellac, mineral spirits/paint thinner to dissolve varnish, lacquer thinner will dissolve lacquer, shellac and varnish.

May have to rub hard to make a difference after over seventy years of oxidation and curing. Use little bit of one of the three listed above on a rag or steel wool to wipe down problem area, to see if dissolves finish. I would start with alcohol first because shellac easiest to repair.

Cabinetman's advice might be easiest solution to your problem.
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post #6 of 9 Old 06-10-2011, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks

Which would be better, in your opinion? I cannot help but wonder what they used way back then that manage to hold a shine all these years. After looking around at some of the high-priced condos and McMansions we have worked in, and noticing how the Pergo-like flooring shows signs of wear even before we are finished with the punch list, I marvel at the old homes that were build with sweat and muscle.
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post #7 of 9 Old 06-11-2011, 05:26 PM
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Hard to say which finishing product people used in 1930’s. Shellac, Varnish and Lacquer popular and available finishing products back then. Wood stains also popular back then too! Without having a look your problem would start with DNA (denatured alcohol) hope dealing with Shellac.

Only way to tell, use a product that dissolves the old finish. Rubbing out any imperfection will eliminate many problems without completely stripping down to bare wood.

Or do as C-man recommends and just lightly sand and apply new finish.
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post #8 of 9 Old 06-16-2011, 02:19 PM
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Can use alcohol to dissolve shellac, mineral spirits/paint thinner to dissolve varnish, lacquer thinner will dissolve lacquer, shellac and varnish.
Mineral spirits will definitely NOT dissolve dried/cured varnish.

Denatured Alcohol will dissolve Shellac ... Lacquer Thinner will dissolve Shellac and Lacquer. Varnish requires a mechanical or chemical stripper to remove it.
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post #9 of 9 Old 06-18-2011, 08:58 AM
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You are right. Can buy a varnish remover product (stripper), all contain wax, need to wipe down with mineral spirits to remove wax before applying new finish.

Lacquer thinner will make varnish finish bubble.

If all you want to do is clean an old varnish finish wiping down with mineral spirits easiest method.

We do not know from initial post if stripper already used to remove white paint!

That is why agree with Cabinetman's recommendation!
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