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Discussion Starter #1
I’m new to this forum and did a search but didn’t find what I was looking for, so here is my problem.

Our church is getting ready to rebuild and refinish our pews. Here is a photo of the church interior showing the pews: http://www.pbase.com/dloftus/image/82910084 This image shows the pews from the back and it looks better if you click on the “original” size at the bottom of the photo and pan across the image: http://www.pbase.com/dloftus/image/39007249/original This image also shows the old red carpet that was replaced.


The pews need to be reupholstered (obviously!) but while we are recovering the seat, we would also like to disassemble, refinish, paint and reassemble the wood. Does any body have any insight on how to get the pews apart? I was thinking the pew ends can be popped off with a rubber mallet, but I don’t want to split any seems unnecessarily.

What is the best way to get the old finish off, sanding or chemical striping? What is the best clear finish to put back on (Varathane, Lacquer, Polyurethane, varnish, shellac)? What ever is on the pews right now makes your shirt stick to it on a hot summer day when it’s a bit wet. I’m thinking of using an automotive type spray gun (Binks model 7) to eliminate brush marks and go faster. So I’m looking for a finish that will work with a siphon gun and will dry fast enough to put on two or three coats in an afternoon and won’t stick to your clothes.

Our plan is to do one pew at a time so we won’t interfere with our seating requirements during Sunday services. I know this will take months to do, but we are a small church and have other projects and expenses that preclude sending them out to a professional restorer. Any input you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Don Loftus
LaCrosse Baptist Church
Just north of Gainesville, Florida
 

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Can't tell the best way to take apart from the pictures,but before you attempt to remove the finish it would be better to try and identify it. Test with alcohol, if it softens its shellac if not try lacquer thinner. If it softens its lacquer. If the finish is over twenty years old it is probably varnish and would be best removed with a chemical stripper. Let us know the results.

Good Luck

Jerry
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Jerry,

Thanks for the input. I'll check the finish and try to determine what is on there now. It is a good bet that the pews are over 20 years old. There are some dedication plaques that date from the late 80's.

We are in the process of buying the material for the seat and will start on the wood working in a month or so. We are in no hurry and want to do a good job of restoring the pews, but without spending too much time on each one. After all, we have 18 pews to do. I'll post photos as the work progresses.
 

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This idea may be totally off base, and I have no idea what costs would be like, but, do you have anyone in your area that operates a plastic media blast system? If you have some one you could look at the idea of blasting the original finish off, with pew still assembled. Then, refinish as desired. I assume the pews would fit into the back of a pickup truck for transport.
The reason I suggest this is that I was working for a company that had this type of system, and one of our subs wanted to refinish a small hardwood table. The plastic media blast equipment did a beautiful job of removing the old finish, and did not harm the wood at all. Look in your local directory under sandblasting.
Gerry
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Gerry,

I had not heard of the plastic media blasting before. Only sand and bead plasting. My only concern would be the plastic media cutting into the soft wood more deeply than the hard wood (growth rings). Someone has painted the pews before because there is a real difference in height between soft and hard growth, especially on the round pew tops. When refinishing I had planned on using sanding blocks and a DA sander. Final finish will be satin rather than gloss to help hide the pew surface. Thanks for your input.
 

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While erosion of the softer wood, and raising of the grain can be an issue, a good operator[ie someone who is willing to practise a bit] can adjust the air pressure downwards, and also decrease the angle of the blast onto the wood. This removal system is quite rapid, and might be worth exploring. I believe the plastic media was developed for use in the aircraft industry, where sand and glass beading is much too harsh for delicate aluminum and magnesium parts. It works on the same principle as sandblasting, but is much easier on the part being blasted.

Gerry
 

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You can sandblast them, but that can be a pain on larger items like phews. Go to BORG and get some Kleen-Strip Slap it on and cover it with plastic for a while out of the sun. Then you can use a puddy knife to scrape it off. Where are you located?
 

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Chemical stripping isn't going to be cheap and you will have a lot of cleaning up of the wood left. Find a blaster and let them give the underside a test shot.

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Al, we are located just north of Gainesville, Florida home of the University of Florida (the Gators football team). It gets hot and humid here in the summer and many folks, who's shirt or blouse gets a little sweaty, find themselves sticking to the pew a little bit. It's not real bad, but I would like to eliminate it since a new finish will be put on anyway.

We are in the process of buying the material to cover the pews and will soon take on out and start with the refinish and repair process. I think the suggestion of finding out what type of finish is on the pew now would be a good idea. I'm thinking it is varnish because the pews are over 20 years old and have not been refinish since then.

Irregardless of what is on there now (make the assumption we can remove all the old finish) what would be the best finish to put back on?
 
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