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When I built my house, I had the amish build me birch cabinets with a clear natural finish. After only 3 years I started to notice around some joints and end grains the finish was turning white and coming off. last year I sent a few of the doors back to them to fix, and I think they just put a new coat of finish over them, and of course it was dark when I picked them up and couldn't check them out since they don't have lights. there were still light spots in the finish where it was coming off. It seems as if the air can get under the finish it slowly peels itself off.
I am a carpenter, but I have never refinished cabinets. I am not sure if it is a lacquer, varnish, or shellac. I started to sand a bathroom vanity down, and realized there had to be an easier way. Do I need to strip them all the way down? or just spots? Do I use sanding or stripper? Do I put a fresh coat of varnish on everything?
 

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i'll bet it is lacquer. it gets very hard. trouble is the wood is soft. the lacpuer on both my tables have had the same consiquences. i believe getting your moneys worth is important. but if it happened to me, i'd just refinish them myself.
 

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You could rub the finish in an inconspicuous spot with a q-tip and three solvents: alcohol, lacquer thinner and paint thinner. Cured varnish will not soften with any of them. Laquer will soften with the lacquer thinner, and shellac will soften with alcohol. This can give you a good guess of the type of finish used.
 

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I had a lacquer finish come off a piece I refinished quite a few years ago. I used regular canned shellac (waxed) as the sealer coat. The lacquer didn't bond to the waxed shellac. I ended up stripping everything off.
You only do this twice...the first time and the last time.
 

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I am sure they just added another coat, because that is what it would do and that is the easiest. I prefer a thick laquer or a varnish. it will be a pain but sanding it down will be your desired look.
 

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try circa 1850. it works well and says on the label that it works on varnish, though i have heard of some people having issues but not many. paint seems to be the hardest for me anyway.
 
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