Monday, August 03, 2015

Salvaged Front Door Part 1 - Stripping

I'm FINALLY getting started on this project that I've been putting off for quite some time (a few months now). The beautiful old solid BC fir front door (which weighs an absolute ton, btw) has been patiently waiting to get some attention, and just recently I started working on it.

The first thing I did was to reglue the loose upper mortise using old fashioned hide glue (the same kind of glue as the original). This is not the kind of glue you find at your hardware store. Hide glue is an adhesive that has been around since at least the ancient Egyptians (thousands of years) and when it's used properly, it can last a very long time. It can also stick to itself (new glue will reactivate old glue), and it can be taken apart/removed with heat and moisture (as many times as you want without losing strength). I use hide glue when doing most of the repairs on my antiques and clocks.

I also took a few minutes to repair the broken corner on the centre moulding (a very easy fix).

I have had the door ready for stripping for a few weeks, and I finally decided to start doing that tonight. I was able to do one entire side. This went well, but it still took 2 1/2 hours.

Here's my process. I strip furniture, clocks, and hardware using chemical stripper. I find that it gives the best results. It doesn't scrape or damage the wood, and you don't need to do any sanding which tends to completely ruin the age and patina on any item. Chemical stripping is very messy, but not very difficult. That said, it's not for everybody. It takes a certain amount of practice, and I've found from trying to teach a few people (at least 3 people) that most just don't have the patience to do a good job. You can't rush, and you have to keep working in the same area until the wood is clean. If it's still shiny, or there's still finish in the crevices, it's not done. If you move to another area, the softened varnish will only dry and harden again, and you're just doubling your work.

Tools needed: Stripper, rinse solution (I use a special recipe which is a mix of common chemicals - which I will not share) you may use alcohol, or water, steel wool (medium or fine), newspaper, tarps, rags, and optimally a dedicated set of 2 bristle hair paint brushes, as well as jars (one for your stripper, one for the rinse, and another for "waste goop"). You will also find it useful to have a small 2" drywall taping knife as a scraper for flat surfaces (dull the corners to avoid scratching the wood).

Start with the most messy and irritating areas. On a door, you will want to start with the panels, mouldings, and finish with the flat areas (this is the same order that you'd paint or varnish in as well).

Panel 1 stripped, panel 2 coated in remover:
Note: due to the lighting situation in the garage, all the photos have a fairly severe yellow cast. I tried to fix this a bit in Photoshop, but with limited success.



2 panels and a few flat areas done:



Upper left corner before:



Upper right corner during:



Beautiful tight grain of the solid BC fir. I will go back and fill all the nail holes later. Side note: Old toothbrushes also work well in tight corners and crevices.



Side one completed!



You can see the moulding repair here. This moulding is the only piece on the door that was made in pine rather than fir.



Top Left:





If the weather is nice, and if I'm in the mood, side 2 will be done tomorrow.

14 comments:

  1. That's a nice door. It's going to look great when you're done.
    I can't stand our front door. I'd love to find a replacement, but the door is 48" wide. Maybe someday.

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    Replies
    1. 48" is HUUUUUGE. It must weigh 200Lbs! I don't recall if I've ever seen your front door on your blog. Would it be possible to modify the existing door?

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  2. The door is looking good, can't wait to see it finished. I'm a big fan of Zip-Strip, it's a Methylene Chloride stripper, that's non-flammable and doesn't require any kind of stripping.

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    Replies
    1. The stripper I've been using also uses Methylene Chloride (and Methanol). There was a much better brand that I was using before, but one of the chemicals in it was very dangerous (it could pass right through gloves and enter the blood stream) and they've completely phased out anything with that chemical now. Kind of scary, but I think I only did a few pieces with that. This newer stuff works a bit slower, but it gives decent results.

      As for the rinse, I find it's absolutely necessary because it scrubs and "washes" the wood surface, which picks up any remaining finish, as well as stain residue, dust, and any other leftovers that may be on the surface. It also helps to give a nice clean uniform surface (no blotchiness or light spots).

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  3. Meant to say doesn't require any kind of rinsing.

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  4. the rinsing part is what i need help with. I'm always left with this milky film [if the paint removed was white] on my doors - wish i could get them as clean as yours.

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    Replies
    1. Search the web for rinse solutions/mixes for stripping. There are many out there you can try out!

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  5. You did a great job salvaging that door, JC! The result looks promising already, and I can’t wait to see it up in your home. How is it going? I'm hoping for more updates from you! Thanks for sharing your procedures. :)

    Darryl Smith @ Franklin Window and Door

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  6. We have two front doors (one still on the house) that are very similar to this one. The one that's still intact has etched glass, but some idiot faux-wood-grained the outside of the door with paint... despite the door being beautiful solid wood. Sometimes I wonder about people.
    ~Litha Nelle

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    Replies
    1. There was a trend in the Victorian Era to do lots of faux wood grain on household doors and trim. One of the blogs I follow is a couple who own a Victorian house that was built by someone who ran/owned a wood mill. He could have picked any wood he liked for the house, but it was all done in wood grain (which was more expensive). Most of the original doors from my childhood home had wood grained doors, mixed-in with large solid oak doors (front and back) and ash veneer (flat) doors for all the interior ones. I only mention this because in some cases the door may never have been finished (stain/varnish) and if the original finish was the faux wood grain, then it may have been done on the raw wood, and if that's the case, it's nearly impossible to clean the wood back to original without also needing lots of sanding. This is what happened with the blue painted door that I had found before this one. It was ugly knotty pine, and was painted from day one, so it was too difficult to strip, and it would only have looked good painted again.

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    2. Yeah, luckily mine is obviously stained wood beneath, due in part to chips in the paint the size of my hand. But thanks for the info- my house was built in 1903 and has been repainted and re-wallpapered within an inch of its life due to being a duplex at one time.
      ~Litha Nelle

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  7. Thanks for the tip. I wish I had known this last summer when I decided to strip and sand our furniture. It took me all of 3 weeks to complete them all due to not being able to work on them constantly. I could have saved a lot of time by following these techniques. I'll be sure to use them next time.

    Earl Mark @ Eastway Lock

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  8. That door is awesome. I cant wait to see the end result. Looks like you are putting in some great effort with the toothbrush :) In my business I usually install new doors, but it sure is nice to see old doors refurbished. I personally think old refinished doors are so much more characteristic to a home. Thanks for the tips and keep up the great work.

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  9. I am curious to find out what blog system you have been working with? I'm experiencing some minor security issues with my latest website and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any solutions?door handles sydney

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