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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Rochester NY
    Posts
    45

    Default On to the front door!

    I am redoing an 1890's Victorian and am going to work on the front door. I am unsure how to even attack the door. I'd like not have to remove it, yet still do the refinishing. Here are a few pictures to illustrate the door's condition:









    I'd love to hear from anyone who's had a similar door and what solutions they discovered in refinishing.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    1,197

    Default Re: On to the front door!

    Is it oak under the alligatored varnish?
    You need a paint sc****r, some liquid stripper like Kutzit, and maybe a cabinet sc****r once you see how much sun damage there is to the wood.
    The worst of the alligator effect can be sc****d with a sharp paint sc****r; do not yet try to get to the bare wood, let the chemical do that. If you place a dropcloth down under the door, mask off the surrounding area, and keep changing some newspaper on top of the dropcloth, you could strip it in place. Probably better to lay it flat on sawhorses, though. It won't take more than a couple hours to strip the old varnish anyway.
    Some areas may be more sun-damaged than others; then you can decide whether to mask the damage with a dark stain, or use the cabinet sc****r (an acquired skill with a learning curve) to restore an original lighter appearance. Then sand, stain(?) and topcoat. Usually spar varnish, especially if it sees sunlight.
    S_M
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Portland, Oregon, formerly of Chicago
    Posts
    1,804

    Default Re: On to the front door!

    Nylicens,

    If at all possible, pull the door! It is far easier to work on a horizontal surface. Stripping generates lots of caustic gunk. Stripper works best when a heavy coat can sit at length on the surface.

    I would secure the door opening by cutting a temporary door blocker from lower grade plywood. The whole stripping and varnishing process could span several days.

    If you elect to leave the door on, cover the floor with about 3 layers of rosin paper to protect the floor, especially if you do not intend to re-finish the floors. Also, the neighboring walls etc. should be protected from splashes of stripper or gunk.

    Most of the gunk can be removed by dragging a 3 inch flexible spackle knife over the surface. Drag, don't push! Pushing risks splintering the wood. The moldings around the panels can be largely done by using steel wool. There are also curved stripping tools on the market to help in cleaning out the corners and curves of the moldings.

    I would remove the lock set, mail slot and the hinges. The door very likely has ornate cast brass hinges.If so, these can be cleaned and polished.

    When the surface is pretty clean, flood areas with lacquer thinner or acetone and continue to rub with the grain. This will get the residual gunk off and very possibly redistrubute the old stain color to where you might not have to re-stain the door. I avoid using sandpaper because it opens up the grain unevenly and makes it more unlikely that the wood will accept the new stain evenly. If the door were totally flat, aggressive sanding might work,but the panels prevent such sanding.

    I believe the door should clean up fairly well. Most of the blackish look is from ages of old varnish and dirt embedded in it. It is undoubtedly multiple layers of natural varnish which the stripper should rapidly attack.

    I would give the door at least three coats of natural spar varnish , such as McCloskey's Man O' War. It also contains UV sun blockers. Don't forget the top and bottom edges! Especially the bottom where water can "teapot" under the edge.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Rochester NY
    Posts
    45

    Default Re: On to the front door!

    Quote Originally Posted by ordjen View Post
    Nylicens,

    If at all possible, pull the door! It is far easier to work on a horizontal surface. Stripping generates lots of caustic gunk. Stripper works best when a heavy coat can sit at length on the surface.
    I really want to avoid stripping the door. I want to try and keep the patina it has. Is there a good way of melting, reconsolidating or cleaning the surface??

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    1,197

    Default Re: On to the front door!

    There is a point beyond which an old finish cannot be saved. There is bare wood showing in some places. There are at least two different types of finish there, hence the alligatoring.
    I is possible to methodically sand down the upper (later) layers of finish until a flat surface is achieved, which could be topcoated with new finish material. I typically use 800/1000/1500 grit silicon carbide paper for this. I have wet-sanded alligatored shellac finishes down before, and it is tremendously labor intensive.
    I don't think anything about your finish would justify such an effort. And, looking forward, were you able to conserve the original finish after removing the later/damaged layers, you'd still be faced with maintaining a early clear finish outdoors.
    Consider that the finish is sacrificial; it is only there to protect the wood itself, which is the enduring fabric of the old building. To save the patina, just don't sand the wood any more than needed to properly apply the new finish.

    S_M
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    143

    Exclamation Re: On to the front door!

    I agree the finish has really had it on the door. While I haven't ever refinished a door with stripper I have refinished several pieces of furniture and know for a fact that once the finish gets like that there really is no choice but to refinish. I also agree that you should take your door down to refinish it and use some fairly strong stripper but use care too as many doors have veneers on them. If you really do insist on keeping the door on its hinges then I suggest you use one of the slower acting strippers as they are not as harsh and can be cleaned with water. If you use a slower acting stripper even if you do get some on the floor it might not hurt the finish if you clean it up in time. I say might not and then again it could so the advice of using drop clothes is very important even with a slower acting stripper.
    If security is a problem you could use plywood and that certainly isn't a bad idea to cover the opening or you could go by a Habitat Restore store or an equivalent charity store and buy an old door for a fairly low price and then temporarily hang it in the opening. Afterwards if you don't want the door anymore just donate it back and let the charity sell it to someone else. If the door openings will not match just use a slide bolt and then use another outside door until you are finished. Best to use gloves too when using stripper and have plenty of ventilation as the stronger stuff isn't very good for your lungs with prolonged exposure.
    For real small areas I have seen very small tools for stripping the harder to reach areas, they are something like dental tools. As for just using sandpaper I wouldn't do that either as if you really want to refinish the door you will more than likely go right through the veneer and ruin the door for varnish. As for painting your door then go ahead and use sandpaper. It will still take longer than using stripper. Good luck to you and I hope you post an after picture as I know I would be interested in seeing it and I am sure others would too.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,827

    Default Re: On to the front door!

    From what you have posted, may I suggest you look at Formby's furnature refinisher. http://formbys.com/index.cfm Chec out the "Tips and Talk" section

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

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