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