Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do Not Apply Over Stearates

The tiniest things can make a project go bad – or at least make you stress out about an ongoing project. For the past few days, I have been stripping and refinishing a wardrobe. It is not a very nice wardrobe but it is wood, it’s pretty solid, and it’s nice and big. I intended on stripping it and then using Polyshades to stain/finish it. I figured this was a simple and quick way to make an old piece of furniture look “not too bad”.

The stripping went along easily. I used Citri-Strip (for the first time) and it did a great job of removing several layers of paint and other finish. Once complete with this, I spent some time wiping down small areas of the wardrobe with some mineral spirits to remove any excess residue. When I was done, the piece had a slightly damp feeling to the touch. I figured I would let it dry a little while and see what happened.

A few hours later, the damp feeling had lessened but there was still a slight tackyness to the wood. I figured this was no big deal and went along and applied the first coat of the Polyshades. I got the finish to look pretty good and left it for a couple of hours. When I came back, I quickly realized that something was wrong. I have used Polyshades in the past and it had always dried fairly quickly. All of the surfaces of the wardrobe were still wet to the touch.

I quickly grabbed the can of Polyshades and read the directions. One item stood out: “Do not use over paint, lacquer, shellac, polishes or products containing stearates.” Could any combination of these sthings have previously been on the wardrobe? Could I possibly have not gotten all of the previous finish off and now something underneath would ruin what I thought would be a quick and easy project? Was there some residue left behind from the Citri-strip? Of course, my mind started racing. I guess the ultimate lesson here is to be sure that the stripper gets down to the bare wood and that everything is dry to the touch before proceeding.

I waited overnight and found that there was some success – the drawer front and some of the rails had dried. An odd result was that the finish was now a high-gloss and not the satin finish that the can advertised. The surface still had a slight tack to it in isolated areas too. Well, I have never been a patient person (which is not a good trait to have if you are fixing up an old home) so I decided to push ahead and apply a second coat of poly. Again, I waited overnight the finish was now slightly less glossy also there were fewer tacky areas.

The next phase will be to clean and paint the inside and replace the back of the cabinet with cedar bead board. I hope that there is no more trouble lurking under the finish – or this could get really ugly. More to come...

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