Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Refinishing Wood…the David Sweet Way February 8, 2013

This week (month?), I’m continuing the first floor woodwork refinishing, using the David Sweet method. David uses historically appropriate strippers and finishes (read: no poly) and creates finishes that look like they belong in a 125 year old house. The process takes longer than dip stripping and smacking on poly based finish, but the color is so deep and finish so rich, I can’t really argue with it. It’s my forever house, right?

I’m using a heat gun to remove paint when I have to, but my first choice is to find pieces without paint. My least favorite is pieces that have paint over bare wood, because you have to work extremely fast with the heat gun in order to avoid scorching the wood. Wood that’s been stained then painted is easy to work with a heat gun, working from the details out to the flat surfaces. After the heat gun, my biggest expense was the very nice respirator I purchased after working for an hour without one and feeling like I’d just taken a year off my life.

Best case, you start with a piece that looks like the one on the left, and you can scrape off what little paint is on it and not even involve paint removers. Be careful with strippers, as many can permanently damage some wood species. We used a mixture of denatured alcohol and old shellac from previous projects (this reminded me of something like sourdough starter) to remove the shellac and 100 years of wax and dirt buildup. I felt like I was flipping back through stories of maids who were too lazy to strip the previous year’s wax as I was removing all the layers by alternating my denatured alcohol starter and ragging off. That will leave you at the piece that looks like the left center plinth block.

The right center plinth has been coated with shellac. A few more coats of shellac would give it a true historic finish that is deep and rich. We were trying to match the color of our aged wood, as shellac will age into a darker reddish tone from it’s dark golden start with wax and years. You can pigment shellac, or add a stain layer for color. It takes some experimentation to get the exact color, but as you can see, the end result is gorgeous! Now, on to the miles of board I have left!

 

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