How To: Remove Paint From Decorative Wood Details

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Have you ever found a piece of furniture with great bones and beautiful details that you want to refinish, but have no idea where to start?  Today I am going to show you how to remove all the paint and old stain from those beautiful details it can be refinished. 

I want to start out by saying I think painting furniture can be a wonderful and amazingly transformative but, I also don't think  every piece of furniture I makeover needs to be painted.  I think sometimes we get too caught up in slapping another coat of paint on something and we forget about the history that comes with a lot of these pieces.  A lot of these pieces are older than our parents and even our grandparents.  They have often already gone through several lives or changes before we see them.  

For instance the project I am currently working on, our entry table, has gone through at least 5 such lives, It's original walnut, then a powder blue, lime green, puke green and it's new life with me.  Its an old 1930s-1940s walnut table with beautiful turned legs that someone committed a terrible sin against by painted it such a putrid color.  My dad picked up this hidden gem for me on one of his antique adventures a couple of years ago and I am finally getting around to fixing it up.   

No matter what angle you look at it, this is just not a nice color and it doesn't blend with our house at all.  So I want to give it a new look.  For this project I am going to repaint the lower part and refinish the top bringing back the natural beauty of the wood.  However, this is all to come in a later post. 

Today I am only focusing on the process of removing all of this old paint from the top detailed edge of the table.  It is a decent amount of work but in the end I think it will have a much prettier and warmer look than just adding more paint.  

What You'll Need: 

  • Back to Nature Ready Strip (Affiliate Link) I love this stuff because it doesn't stink, it won't burn your skin, it's environmentally friendly, it costs about the same, and it even does a better job removing old paint.  
  • Latex Free Disposable Nitrile Gloves (Affiliate Link) I prefer disposable gloves when working with stain and especial stripper.  They will get a gunked up and it's nice to just toss and forget.  Always be sure to use latex free.  Regular latex gloves will disintegrate as soon as the stain or stripper comes in contact.  Not good at all. 
  • Paint Scraper (Affiliate Link)  I prefer the kind with the little tooth on the end.  This especially came in handy on this project because it helped me scrape the last little bits of paint from the grooves. 
  • Stripping Brush (Affiliate Link) 
  • Old Tooth Brush
  • Small Bucket of Water

To start my project I simply applied the Ready Strip to the surface of my project using a paint brush.  Any brush will work fine, apply in a even coat.  Not too thin, it should be thick enough to see the opaque green color.  Then let it sit. This will take anywhere it took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for it to change color. The instructions say it will turn an off white color when it is ready to remove, but I found that it was ready when it took on the color of the paint underneath. 

When the stripper turned the same puke green as my table I took my wire stripping brush and scrapped off all the paint that had lifted.  You will want to use firm but not harsh strokes when removing the paint. If the the wire brush seems like it is too stiff you can also use the toothbrush for this step.  Next I used my toothbrush and bucket of water to wash away as much paint and stripper from grooves as possible.  

After a quick dry with a paper towel I repeated the process.  There was so much paint on the table it took me three passes to remove all the paint.  On the final pass I used the tooth end to my paint scrapper to lightly scrape out any remaining paint and debris left in the grooves.  Be careful not to scar or scratch the wood by pushing too hard.  These marks will show up later should you decide to restain the wood.  

Once everything has been throughly cleaned and dried you are ready to move on with your project.  For me, I will be staining the top.  But you could be removing the old paint so the details will still be clear if you decide to repaint.  Remember that chalk paint is thicker than normal paint so it will always hide more of the details.  

Are you working on any projects right now?  I'd love to hear about them below!  

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