Stripping painted furniture
HIDDEN BENEATH half a dozen layers of crackled paint is a beautiful hardwood table. After the stripper is brushed on, chemicals do the hard work.
There's probably an old dresser, chair, or table you've sequestered in a dark corner of your basement or attic that's covered with cracked and blistered paint. Whether the piece is a family heirloom or just something you picked up at a garage sale, you can remove the paint and turn it into a usable piece of furniture. Chemical stripping surely ranks as one of the messiest ways to spend a weekend. But if you follow the advice of Don Maxwell, of Maxwell's Furniture Restoration in Mountainside, New Jersey, you will get the job done safely and correctly. Who knows? You might find a real gem under all that gunk.

What will you save doing the work yourself? Hiring a pro to repair, strip and finish this table would cost about $450, while you can do the work over a couple of weekends for around $60.

Fix It First

When restoring furniture, it helps to break things down to smaller, more manageable steps. First, remove hardware, such as pulls, knobs, and hinges. Maxwell suggests writing numbers on the parts or even taking a few "before" pictures to help with reassembly when you're done.

If the piece is damaged, fix it before removing the paint. For this project, Maxwell started by removing the split tabletop. "This table had been exposed to the elements for at least a decade," he says, "but it only takes a year or two for furniture to begin checking and warping — even if it's under cover in an unheated garage or on a back porch."

The fastest way to correct splits like these is to recut and reglue the joint. Maxwell ran the top through his tablesaw, cleaned up the cut on his jointer and installed a few wood biscuits to reinforce the joint and straighten any minor warping. Next, he brushed on a thin coat of carpenter's glue and clamped the boards together. Once the glue dried, the table was shipped to the stripping room.

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