Stripping the Interior Paint: The Back Wall

wash stand front beforeWashstand Project 2015 

wash stand reviewing floor level from interiorStripping the paint from any interior surface can be a bit challenging simply because you have to reach in to inner corners and undersides.  But it can be greatly helped by the way you position the piece as you work on it.

My workshop is not fancy.  It’s in my basement.  For stripping work, I almost always use a sturdy corrugated cardboard box (as you see below) with a solid piece of old wood or shelving placed on top (here I have used two old bedside cabinet doors that I had removed and did not use).  This assures a stronger work surface to support the washstand’s weight.  Then I put old plastic signboard on top that can be smudged, smeared, and cut until useless, which can take months.  This lightweight “table” can be shoved around to get the best lighting as I move around.

work table option 1 work table option 1 with cover


My favourite seat is a simple collapsible stool, cheap and found at any hardware store.  I can lift it with one hand and set it down anywhere I want.

I’ll position the table on the work surface so that back side is down.  Like so.interior back side down ready for stripping

Tool #1: Paint Stripper.

Circa 1850 with small glass jar

I always use Circa 1850.  I’ve been using it for 20 years in my home and have virtually nothing negative to say about it. I transfer some to a glass jar so that I can move it around easily.

Tool # 2: Cheap Bristle Brushcheap bristle brush

…to apply the stripper. Cheap is the word.  The cheapest you can find.  It’ll get gucky but cleans up easily just by wiping the wet solution off on the rim of the jar.  It turns rock hard overnight but loosens up the moment you put it back in the stripper.  A word of warning – use only bristle.  If you use polyester or foam, you get to see the stripper slowly melt them away (not instantly, mind you; at first you think it will work but then you notice that your 2-inch foam has grown to a limp and useless 4 inches).

I picked a starting spot and gobbed the stripper solution on, then let it sit for a couple of minutes.  You can almost see the paint bubble.first blob of stripper

Tool #3: Cheap Putty Knife

Tool #4: Second, Equally Cheap Putty Knife

Tool # 5: Garbage Pail

putty knifeputty knife #2garbage container

I scraped the loosened paint on to the putty knife. It lifts easily into a blob at the end of the knife.  Then it got deposited in the garbage with the help of a second knife.starting to scrape finishing the first scrape gunk over the garbage can using a second scraperThe goal is not to get every fleck of paint off at first, but to remove most of it. I worked in manageable sections, getting into a routine of having a section softening as I scraped the previous one.

2nd and 3rd sections strip start close up bubbling paint moving along with stripper

Notice that the last section showed yellow staining when the stripper was applied.  This usually means that there is a knot or stain underneath the paint.

section showing old stain

stain after paint removal

Tool #6: Coarse Grade Sandpaper

Cut into quarters, then folded for hand use.coarse sandpaper

It will end up looking like this… sandpaper used

I sanded the wall by hand to remove any remaining paint.  It’s easiest to do when it is still somewhat soft from the stripper which is why it ends up sticking a bit to the sandpaper.coarse sandpaper folded sanding residual paint

Tool # 7: Shop-Vac (or similar)shop-vac

I vacuumed the bits and pieces away and took a look.  Pretty clean.vacuuming back wall finished

Ready to tackle the sides!


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