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Repairing a worn wood surface is a great way to breathe new life into an old piece. For older wood surfaces, the finish is likely either shellac or lacquer. Whether you are repairing a piece to sell or to enjoy for years to come, here are a few ways to remove shellac finishes.
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I have tons of woodwork that is coated with shellac. I have stripped the doors easily enough with alcohol; however most of the trim is vertical or above my head. Is there a gel type denatured alcohol that I could find that would stick to the wood and not run down my arm an onto every other surface?
Remove all drawers, knobs, handles, hinges and any protruding parts before beginning. Wipe down all items with a damp cloth to clean and remove any dirt or cobwebs. For a small surface area, an aerosol paint stripper will work well and is makes it easy to coat the entire surface.
Shellac looks great at first, but it won't hold up. If exposed to weather, it whitens, cracks and begins to flake off. And even if the door is partially protected, shellac has a limited lifetime. Most doors need stripped and refinished after a few years.
There are many ways to remove an old finish, some of them more difficult than others. Shellac and lacquer finishes are the easiest to remove, requiring only alcohol or lacquer thinner and a little muscle. The tougher finishes, paint and varnish, are more common; these are usually removed with paint and varnish remover.
Varnish, lacquer, shellac and other clear coats are applied to protect wood furniture and flooring from scratches, scuff marks, and stains. Applied properly, these products do their job well—but what if you want to re-expose the wood grain for refinishing, repair, or restoration? Though labor-intensive, sandpaper is capable of removing nearly any wood finish.