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Advice on taking apart wooden chair that is stapled

2562 Views 34 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Steve Neul
As the title states - I have a wooden chair that I am going to refinish. I originally thought everything was held by screws, but have come to find out that the main frame is jointed and stapled. From the pieces I was able to get off so far the staples are about an inch or more (kind of like a nail without the head).

Is there an easier way than a rubber mallet? I have the arms, foot rest, and the seat assembly out. I am left with legs, 4 backs, and 4 side pieces (the main frame).

I suppose I could leave this part untouched, however, it would make sanding a lot tougher. Any ideas?


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When I reglue chairs I use a rubber mallet to take them apart. Sometimes though you can do more damage trying to get one apart then you would be helping it by reglueing it. If a joint is solid and won't loosen with a few hits with the mallet I leave it alone. If the joint is loose held only by a nail and it appears like it's going to damage the chair getting it apart I will work super glue into the joint and leave it alone. I would much prefer to get the chair completely apart and clean as much of the old glue out as possible and reglue the chair with two part epoxy.
Bought some Kleen Strip tonight from Home Depot which contains methylene chloride. I tried it on a few pieces earlier and then checked about 30 minutes later as per the instructions. It really did not do a whole lot.

I have both a plastic scraper and wire brush. While I could tell some was coming off it really did not come off as much as I expected. I have another coat on the same pieces as we speak and will report back tomorrow if there was any improvement.

The Kleen Strip says it is for wood among other things and will remove varnish, paint, and stain.
I use Kleen Strip a lot and if you left it for 30 minutes it's the wrong stripper for your job. Kleen Strip isn't suitable for lacquer finishes for one thing. You might try some lacquer thinner on the finish and see if it tries to dissolve. If so then Strypeeze remover would work a lot better for you. If the lacquer thinner does little also you will probably need an aircraft remover. If you do use the Strypeeze do an overkill on rinsing the residue off. It's much harder to clean then Kleen Strip and the residue will affect your new finish.
Here is an example of what I am talking about... granted these are still somewhat wet, but you get the idea - they are really not lightening up at all if you compare to the picture on my original post.

A few pieces I managed to get fairly light on certain sides, but that was probably 3 applications and lots of wire brush usage after the scraper. You can also sort of see the original wood color from where it was not stained in certain areas from assembly.

I have yet to try anything with the actual base frame which I am keeping assembled. Ideas?
You shouldn't have to use that much elbow grease stripping the finish off. When you said you applied the stripper and let it sit for 30 minutes, did you just leave it or did you keep it wet with the remover for the 30 minutes. If you just applied it and let it dry in the 30 minutes the finish would have dried back on. If you kept it wet with remover the Kleen Strip is just the wrong remover for your job. Normally it only takes about 15 minutes to lift the finish.
Bought some aircraft remover tonight from the local auto store. This was in an aerosol can. Sprayed it on a few pieces from the above picture and absolutely nothing happened - nothing came off at all.

The only thing that seems to work is using the Kleen Strip in multiple applications with the wire brush.
I have tried to put a commercial paint and varnish remover in a paint sprayer and even though the remover was very good it did very little spraying it. I haven't tried any remover in an aerosol can before. It may be it just dried out before it could work like the commercial remover I tried. You might hold the can closer to the wood so it goes on wetter and see if that helps. The Kleen Strip remover is a good stripper for a lot of things. You might try using a power washer to rinse the parts off after it has soaked for 30 minutes. It would either have to be a power washer that was low pressure or one that you could adjust the pressure down to about 1500 psi. Pressure that low you can almost tolerate spraying your hand with the water. Sometimes the finish will be softened enough the pressure washer will lift it off where hand rinsing with solvents will do nothing. I think most of retail removers say to rinse with mineral spirits which is completely wrong but it keeps them safer from being sued. A better solvent would be lacquer thinner. It's a much stronger solvent and you really need to wear chemical gloves handling it.

I recently refinished a kitchen that a painter started with a lacquer finish. I knew the Kleen Strip didn't work well on lacquer so I bought Strypeeze remover for the job. In a eight hour day I stripped the exterior of all the cabinets, doors and drawer fronts and rinsed them off with lacquer thinner as I went. That brand remover works better for lacquer but doesn't rinse with the power washer very well. It's better rinsed with lacquer thinner. You just have to use different products and methods for each different job.
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I hope you are right and it's just the stain that didn't come off. Sometimes if you sand a finish off it leaves some of the finish penetrated into the wood and when you stain it the color looks blotchy. If the color looks weird when you stain it you may need to do some more stripping.

To me it looks like it might be birch or maple. If it is then it does need the wood conditioner. If it isn't the wood conditioner wouldn't hurt anything so I would use it to be sure. Once you use the conditioner you will probably have purchase a darker color stain than you think. The conditioner will make it stain lighter because it will seal the wood a little. You could suppliment the color with a dye however as busy as the chair is it would be best to spray the dye. I don't think you would be able to apply the dye evenly by hand. You should not put multiple coats of an oil stain on. If you manage to get some of the stain left on the surface it can interfere with the adhesion of the topcoat. The type of topcoat would depend on what color the stain will be and if you have the means of spraying or not. If it is a medium color and can't spray I would use an oil based wipe on polyurethane. If the color is light I would go with a water based polyurethane. If you have the means of spraying I would seal with a vinyl sealer and topcoat with a pre-catalyzed lacquer. It would work on light or dark woods.
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The wood really looks like maple to me up close. The grey areas are just the grain of the wood. What you can do to test the finish is there are area where the seat will cover on the inside side of the rails. You can do your testing there. You are correct in that it's not good to test a small area and then try to continue later.

Much of the wipe on polyurethane is oil based. Since you are going light be sure to use a water based wipe on poly. It will be harder to work but the oil based will yellow as it ages. If the stain you use doesn't even out the color for you, you can use dyes to suppliment the color. I expect wood like the bottom picture will be much lighter then the wood in the top picture. Don't use multiple coats of an oil stain and if you use an oil stain let it dry three days before applying a water based topcoat.
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The english chestnut stain is dark enough you could use an oil based poly if you wish. It doesn't yellow very much and is really only a issue on light colored woods like natural maple. You don't see it on medium to dark colored woods.

To answer your question, you can use an oil based conditioner and topcoat it with a water based poly but you should let the conditioner and stain dry three days to a week before topcoating. The finish doesn't adhere very well to fresh linseed oil but is fine once it dries. If you didn't want to wait you could put a coat of zinsser sealcoat shellac on after you have it stained and when it dries procede with the water based poly. The sealcoat would work as a barrier coat. It would adhere to the fresh stain and the water based poly would adhere to the sealcoat.
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I would work on the chair early in the morning before it gets hot and brush another coat of the gel stain on as thin as possible with a soft brush and just let it dry. When it gets hot the stain will set up much faster. Anyway it's not like an oil stain where you have to wipe the excess off. You can just leave it and it will adhere. The main thing is that you get a uniform coat over it.
Not having the product instructions I could only guess that either the wood conditioner shouldn't have been used or using a gel stain the conditioner should have been allowed to dry completely. Some conditioners say to apply the stain within 30 minutes but that would apply to a wiping stain and it kept the gel stain from bonding well. Without being there a guess is the best I can do. When it's dry you can scuff sand it and apply more gel stain to the light spots but before you do that let it dry and briskly rub it with a clean cloth and see if the finish comes off. It might be necessary to take the gel stain and your first coat off and re-apply the gel stain.
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