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Sealing old wood with chipping paint

I have a large wooden set of cubbies that we would like to seal for use as storage in our mudroom. The piece has historical value to us as it was originally a parts bin for the Oliver tractor dealership in town. However, it has spent 30+ years in a shed. The original painted finish is chipping and contains a significant amount of ground in dirt. I have removed a large portion of that dirt using a stiff brush, steel wool, and an air compressor/blower. I am wearing a mask as the paint is likely lead paint. What is the best material to use to seal the wood and create a surface that is easy to clean? The original painted parts bin numbers are still present along with the chipping white and green paint. I would like to preserve this weathered look. Also, can I use water and a mild soap in my clean up? I have been hesitant to do so with the old wood. Thanks for your help!

Re: Sealing old wood with chipping paint


If you just want to seal in the old patina, I would suggest the use of spray cans of shellac from the Zinsser company. This will also seal in any old musty odors that old wood often has. If a more durable surface is desired, you can spray over the shellac with a spray urethane. Zinssers spray shellac is de-waxed and makes a compatible sealer under almost any type finish coat.

Tacoma John
Re: Sealing old wood with chipping paint

Your right, using soap and water can give a bad result. I would use paint thinner in very small amounts to wipe it down. Let dry for a day. Then use a brush applied oil based poly over the top. Brushing it will get the poly into all cracks and seal it much better than trying to spray it.

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