Turned spindles are common on antique chairs, cabinets, bed frames and staircases, and an effective procedure for stripping and sanding them is required knowledge for any refinisher wanting to produce quality work. Conventional palm sanders don't reach easily into crevices, and if you overwork one, you'll end up changing the shape of the feature. Hand sanding is a less aggressive approach, but it's time consuming and doesn't always work, especially when you're trying to remove a dark stain. A more prudent strategy uses chemicals to remove as much finish and stain as possible and keeps sanding to a minimum.
Apply paint stripper to the spindle, either with an old paintbrush or by spraying it from an aerosol can. Spraying the stripper will ensure it gets into all the crevices.
Let the stripper work for 10 to 20 minutes, and before it dries out, scrape it off with a wire brush. Work the brush into all the crevices, but don't press too hard or you'll scratch the wood.
Apply a second coat of stripper to crevices and features that still appear dark. Let it work, then rub it off with fine steel wool. Don't forget to wear rubber gloves while you do this to protect your hands.
Soak the steel wool in lacquer thinner and use it to thoroughly rub the spindle down. It will remove flecks of finish that remain on the surface, and may remove some stain. If you used a solvent-based stripper, the lacquer thinner will neutralize it, but if you used a water-based stripper, wash the spindle with water after rubbing it with lacquer thinner.
Bleach out the stain if you plan to use a lighter stain than the one already on the wood, or you want to leave the wood unstained. There different types of bleach, and the best one to use depends on what kind of stain you're trying to remove.
Mix a saturated solution of dry calcium hypochlorite, available from a swimming pool supplier, and water to remove dyed stains. Brush the solution on, let it work overnight and wash it off with water. The active ingredient in this mixture is chlorine, so wear gloves and a respirator while working with it.
Use oxalic acid to lighten any stains that are the result of natural wood discoloration, which are common on antiques. Mix the oxalic acid crystals with water according to the directions on the container, brush the solution on and let it work overnight before washing it off with water.
Sand deep crevices carefully with a rotary tool and a flapwheel or abrasive brush accessory. Work the tool into the crevice, but use moderate pressure so you don't change the shape of the spindle.
Sand the entire spindle by hand with 150-grit sandpaper when you are satisfied with its appearance and it has completely dried. If you're staining, wipe the stain on with a rag.
Spray sanding sealer on the spindle either with an air gun or an aerosol can. Let it dry, then sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper. Apply two or three clear finish coats by spraying, sanding each coat lightly with 220 or finer paper after it dries and before applying the next. Don't sand the final coat.
Tips & Warnings
- Applying a dark stain will hide many defects, allowing you to omit bleaching and most of the detail sanding.
- It's important to completely neutralize the stripper before applying a new finish, or the stripper will dissolve the finish.
- Protect yourself by wearing goggles when using stripper and a respirator when using harmful chemicals like lacquer thinner or chlorine bleach.
Things You'll Need:
- Paint stripper
- Wire brush
- Fine steel wool
- Rubber gloves
- Lacquer thinner
- Calcium hypochlorite
- Oxalic acid
- Rotary tool
- Flapwheel or abrasive brush accessory
- 150- and 220-grit sandpaper
- Air gun
- Sanding sealer
- Clear finish
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