DIY finish stripper?

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Forum topic by Knothead62 posted 12-24-2010 02:09 PM 1354 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2419 posts in 2047 days

12-24-2010 02:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question sanding refurbishing

My neighbor has 6 oak chairs that he asked me to refinish. The idea is to remove the old varnish (?) and stain to match the dining room table. What do you LJs recommend to make my own stripper or an off the shelf stripper? I have Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, Home Depot in town. Would truckstop coffee work? ;)

9 replies so far

View racerglen's profile


2910 posts in 1866 days

#1 posted 12-24-2010 02:41 PM

The coffee might work as a stain.. depends how much evaporated milk and sugar you add..
I’d just go with an off the shelf stripper, but mind the brass poll..!


-- Glen, B.C. Canada

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2419 posts in 2047 days

#2 posted 12-24-2010 04:54 PM

OK, Glen, I thought I was the only one with a weird sense of humor!

View KDO's profile


142 posts in 1855 days

#3 posted 12-24-2010 05:06 PM

The coffee would add that “one-of-a-kind character” to your work.
That might become your signature finish…<grin>

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View Schoey's profile


23 posts in 2560 days

#4 posted 12-26-2010 04:35 PM

Drink the coffee while using a citrus based stripper. I would try the citrus first, it’s less caustic and easy to clean-up. Try and avoid the harsh chemicals if possible.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 3213 days

#5 posted 12-26-2010 05:19 PM

I use the following product to do professional wood refinishing.


-- 温故知新

View TheDane's profile


4567 posts in 2748 days

#6 posted 12-26-2010 06:58 PM

Here’s the recipe for a Varnish Remover that I first used back in the 70’s … the ingredients were available in the soap and laundry detergent department at most super markets.

6 – tablespoon Argo starch
1 – cup cold water
6 – tablespoon Salsoda

Dissolve the contents completely

Add to 1 quart boiling water

Use w/steel wool and rubber gloves.

Also, here are links to similar formulas that I have used … they work pretty well:


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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2419 posts in 2047 days

#7 posted 12-27-2010 09:30 PM

Gerry, thanks and thanks to all. I checked on the Soy-Gel and it’s expensive online, and I’m cheap. I’ll check at the local Ace Hardware and HD to see what they charge. I’ll try the grocery store formula first.

View Planeman40's profile


637 posts in 1846 days

#8 posted 12-28-2010 11:06 PM

Its very simple.

Use “brush cleaner” which is paint stripper without the glop. Pour some into a small pan and then use “4-ought” (0000) grade steel wool. Dip the steel wool pad into the brush cleaner and apply it to the piece of furniture rubbing as you go. When the steel wool pad gets loaded with old paint and varnish, get a new pad.

This method is so neatly done you can do it in a bedroom with some newspaper on the floor. Rubber gloves might be handy, however I have never used them.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 2872 days

#9 posted 12-29-2010 04:32 AM

A card scraper usually works very well at removing old finishes like varnish, etc. No chems, no fumes, and a vacuum cleaner removes the mess quite well. If it will work on your finish, it will be quick, so you may at least want to try it to get the bulk of the stuff off. It also will eliminate the need to sand afterwards, as no water is needed to neutralize the residue.


-- Go

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