Sunday, August 22, 2010

Like an Itch I Can't Scratch

That is what it is like sometimes when I'm in the middle of a project and I don't work on it. In this case though, I am well past the mid-point, so the desire to work on the project is even greater. There is an actual punch list and the end is in site. Besides, it's only pre-season football. Most of the guys playing after the half today won't be seen after August.

I really wanted to work on something other than shellac stripping, but really, there is nothing else. I need to get this out of the way before I move on to other things. I can't trim out the pocket door until after I paint. I can't paint until I finish the stripping. I can't install the antique, cast bronze mail slot until after I strip and re-finish the front door. I can't shellac or finish the stairs until I finish the shellac stripping. About the only thing I could do is mark the walls where the picture rail will go. This needs to be done before I paint, but that is like maybe an hours worth of work. As soon as it is done I would be staring at a pail of paint stripper, so what's the point.

What is left to strip is 3 doors, door casing around four doorways, the baseboards in the foyer and the baseboards in the stairwell. I decided to do the baseboards first because they are the easiest. I was curious how long it would take me to strip all of the baseboard, so I timed myself on the first run. It is 5.5 feet with one inside corner. I did it in 12 minutes.

This brings up an interesting point. Last week, after I blogged about my method of stripping shellac off wood, someone left a comment saying I was using the product incorrectly. He mentioned that he once knew the daughter of the man who invented methyl chloride and said both her and the instructions say I should brush it on, don't disturb it, and leave it on for 15 minutes. Of course, I stood by my assertion that my method was the correct way to do it regardless of what the instructions said, and here is proof.

The white specs are wood putty. I'll hit this with steel wool, oil, and shellac.

Start to finish I did this 5.5-foot run of baseboard in less time than the instructions indicate I should have left the product on. If I followed the instructions this would have taken me twice the time. The reason is, shellac is not a petroleum based or synthetic product. Shellac is 100% organic and is layered on in very thin layers. If this were 5 coats of paint or polyurethane then I would be doing this very differently. This is why I have said repeatedly that there is no one way to strip something off of something else. It all depends on what you are stripping, what you are stripping it off of, and what was the original finish.

In this case, the use of a methyl chloride based stripper to take shellac off wood is sort of like using a Indy race car to drive to the corner market. It is over-kill, but it works very, very fast. Yes, it is not as safe as other strippers, but when used correctly and with moderate precaution, it is safe to use. If I were using anything else I would still be weeks away from finishing the stairs, and the baseboards would be nothing more than a distant, far off project that was still waiting to happen. As it is, today I finished the baseboards in the foyer and I'm working on the stairs. With any luck, by next weekend I will only have the doors and door casing left to do, and then it will be on to painting.

No comments: