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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
​Hi Folks,

So with some advice from Steve Neul, I am in the process of stripping my stair rail down to the wood. What I thought would be one day of work has morphed into hours and hours of of work, materials tests, experimentation and learning. To summarize, listen to Steve first. Steve suggested that the thing that works best are the strippers that contain methylene chloride. Local hardware store only had Zip Strip so I gave that a shot. also I learned by trial that the environmentally friendly stuff works, but not nearly as well.

I now have the 7 layers of paint, primer and varnish off and I'm down to what looks like the wood. The wood still appears to have retained the stain (albeit blotchy stain).



  • Is this stain that has "soaked in" and do I sand that out to get a uniform (lighter) color? is there a better way then sanding?
  • If I pick a dark stain, will that do the job, filling in the lighter areas while not darkening the darker areas yielding a reasonably uniform appearance?
  • Other than a sanding, should I pretreat the wood to prep it for staining? I think I remember using Sealcoat to pretreat pine before staining. Any suggestions for pre treating?
  • Oh, and finally, does this look like walnut to you?
Attached photo shows finish with layers n' layers of paint and varnish removed. This photo shows results after using Zip Strip. One note, after the Zip Strip, I wiped down with denatured alchohol but I think Steve suggested laquer thinner. Would laquer thinner done a better job removing the residual stain?

The top photo shows the results after striping with Zip Strip. The photo of the newel cap shows how light the wood can be in areas.. Oh, you can see my first post on this topic, and more photos here: http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f8/stripping-stair-rail-166066/

As usual, thanks!

Greg
 

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It appears some of it is stripped better than others. I think I would go over it and strip it again. The more uniform you can make it the better. Likewise when sanding if you completely sand the wood easy to get to completely white it will never stain a uniform color. If you are going darker you should be able to get away with very little sanding if you have it stripped clean.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Steve,

Thanks for your reply. The top photo shows wood that was stripped with methylene chloride based Zip Strip which as you said, did a much better job than the eco-friendly strippers, yielding a much more uniform result. I wasn't completely clear on you above response but are you saying it needs to be uniform or when you say "stripped clean", do you mean no stain whatsoever? (Is that what you mean by completely white?) Finally, can you identify what kind of wood this is?

Sorry to be such a PITA. Should be the last of my questions on this project.

Many thanks.

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What's funny is the one that you marked up is the SmartStrip (Peelaway) result. The top one is the methelyne chloride result which is much more uniform but thee seems to still be a thin layer of stain. (But is is down to the wood). Ah well, I'm gonna do another coat of the Zip Strip on each and see what happens. Will report back!
 

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What's funny is the one that you marked up is the SmartStrip (Peelaway) result. The top one is the methelyne chloride result which is much more uniform but thee seems to still be a thin layer of stain. (But is is down to the wood). Ah well, I'm gonna do another coat of the Zip Strip on each and see what happens. Will report back!
Get yourself a brass brush. When you think it has soaked enough scrub it with the brass brush and rinse what is left with lacquer thinner frequently changing rags.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Get yourself a brass brush. When you think it has soaked enough scrub it with the brass brush and rinse what is left with lacquer thinner frequently changing rags.
Steve,
Do you mean Soaked enough with the stripper or during cleanup with lacquer thinner?
Thank you sir.
Greg
 

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Steve,
Do you mean Soaked enough with the stripper or during cleanup with lacquer thinner?
Thank you sir.
Greg
When you use a remover let the remover do the work. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes adding fresh remover to any place that seems to dry out. Then as quickly as possible scrap off the remover and old finish and in the moldings scrub with a brass brush. Then it's important to rinse off the residue left. Not only is the old finish trying to dry back on removers contain wax which prevents the remover from drying too fast. Where you are working lacquer thinner is a good product to rinse the residue off. Not only is it strong enough to re-wet the half dried finish it also cuts the wax content pretty good. If it were a piece of furniture you were working on outdoors a power washer is a good tool to remove the residue. It just needs to be one that is 1200 psi or lower or one that the pressure can be adjusted down that low. Too much pressure can dig into the wood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ok, apply remover, brass brush, work small areas, rinse a lot with lacquer thinner. You're right, I think I've been mushing the old finish back in with steel wool rather than wiping it off and out. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hey Folks,

Well, I stripped one more time and the change was minimal. I couldn’t get the stain much lighter although it’s a little less blotchy so I'm guessing it's probably dyed. My options I'm thinking, are to sand down to a consistent finish but it sounds like sanding and/or bleaching are not recommended. Happy to keep it imperfect and rustic with the hope that the grain feature isn’t buried. I’ll try to go with this patina like look.

Next steps: I’ll reconcile the feedback I’ve received and come up with a plan. I’ll stain or dye a section and check the results. If looks good, I’ll apply the same to the rest of the railing and newalls.

Finally I asked what kind of wood this is and the general consensus is that it’s oak although I’ve also heard mahogany and I keep thinking its walnut. For now, I’ll go with oak since that’s what the floors, baseboards and the top piece (on which this post sits) is oak.

So three follow up questions:
Can I add a couple layers of stain not applying as heavily over the darker areas to get a more consistent value overall.
Do you suggest any type of pre treating with a wood conditioner before I stain or dye?
I’ve used gel stains in the past. Should I consider that as an option?

Thanks all agin. Your advice has been terrific.

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Here’s a quick interim update. Did another round but this time I used “Dad’s Easy Spray” instead of Smartstrip. This is also, I believe a methelyne chloride based stripper but it comes with a spray bottle.

I got a better result removing the “darker” splotches with Dad’s then the Strip-Eze. I don’t know if the spray action gets into the grain better but about 15 minutes after applying, when you scrape, the dye/stain is liquefied running down the wood which I would mop up with solventy rags and viola, a more consitent (less splotchy) result. Don’t think Dad’s Easy Spray will lifte as many layers as the Smartstrip, (certainly doesn’t smell as strong but I still wear my respirator).

I’ll try and post an interim photo later.

Greg
 

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You never know with removers. When one brand will work another one won't and vice versa. If it isn't working all you can do is try another product.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You never know with removers. When one brand will work another one won't and vice versa. If it isn't working all you can do is try another product.
Yessir, learning this the hard way. RESPECT to the wood finishers that do this for a living!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hey Friends,
What wipe or spray on this that might allow me to see what it might look like? I did wipe some mineral spirits and surprisingly, the dark areas got really dark (almost expresso like). Also, someone suggested that the dark areas might be older dye/ stain that got "pushed in" in during the stripping process (?!). Finally, am I better off using a darker dye/ stain, (like a walnut), so it stains the lighter areas with the assumption that the darker areas don't get much darker?
Thanks again
Greg
 

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The mineral spirits would let you know what it might look like.

Stripper won't push a stain in. It's more likely to remove stain. Had you washed with alcohol and there as a dye present then perhaps that might let the stain soak in deeper.

I think it would be in your best interest to do what it takes to make the wood uniform in color. If some places are still sealed and you stain it you could end up with spots a completely different color. If you can't chemically remove the dark spots then perhaps it needs a lot more sanding.
 

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When you have light spots and dark spots in the wood, that's when a Toner can help blend it all out for a uniform color. Using Toners is a whole nother skill set. Just like learning to apply stain, a stair may not be the best place to try a Toner if you've never tried it before.
If you don't use a Toner, you might try to use a darker stain to color match the dark existing stain. Rather than trying to cover the entire project with one quick wipe, use a small rag of stain and carefully wipe the lighter areas first to reach an acceptable blend with the existing dark stain. I've had to mix different stains to match the color which can be difficult. I use a wet rag and a dry rag to "blend" the color. It's a much slower process. Once you are somewhat satisfied and the stain has set, come back with the same dark stain cut with mineral spirits by about 30% over the entire project.
The Toner I use is the Mohawk brand.
Good luck.
 
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