… Still Here…

November 27th, 2007 § Comments Off on … Still Here… § permalink

It has been a while since I posted something about the Housing Project, not because there has been nothing going on, but because what has been going on is slow, tedious, and boring with no visible signs of progress.

A couple of weeks after I made the previous post about re-pointing the basement walls, I pulled the staff (staff being my father and I) off of that project and redirected them to the front staircase. The front staircase paint stripping project is now entering it’s third year and I’m starting to lose my patience. It’s not that we’re lazy, or incompetent, it’s just that this is a cold-weather job, and for a good chunk of the cold-weather season I’m trapped in my office doing tax returns, working ungodly hours. In an effort to finally make some visible progress, Dad and I are spending all our time cleaning the last little bits of paint from the staircase. It’s frustrating though. This is one of those projects that you can devote a full 8 hour day to and it looks exactly the same at the end as it did at the beginning.

You’re probably looking at the picture and wondering “What paint?” And I would forgive you for that. At first glance the wood looks perfectly clean. But if you were to look closer, in all the recesses of the turnings, you would see layer upon layer of paint. It’s these areas that we’re currently working on.

For anyone else out there who is foolish enough to take on a project like this I’ll try to detail our process. We’ve learned a lot in the past three years that someone else might find useful.

1) For the big stuff (large, smooth, easy to reach places) use a heat gun and a flexible putty knife with rounded corners. The flexibility and rounded corners will help prevent any gouging when you’re scraping.

2) For any stubborn areas that don’t come off easily with the paint gun, use a chemical stripper. I’ve tried many and I find that the Circa 1850 Full Bodied Gel is the best one around. It works very fast and is thick enough to stick to the underside of places.

3) Once the big stuff is done concentrate on any concave areas. We have found that the curve on the head of a spoon will fit any concave profile as long as you angle the spoon properly. Tip: Use a dollar store spoon, not one from your kitchen. You will find that your significant other has no sense of humour about such things. Start with the paint gun and then use the chemical stripper to loosen any stubborn gunk. Tip: Wrap the spoon handle with something non-conductive. Heat gun and metal spoon leaves burn mark in your palm.

4) For intricate details you will want to get a cheap set of dental tools. They work amazingly well at getting into small areas. In order to prevent damage to any detail work I recommend that you use only the chemical stripper. In our case it usually takes about five rounds of stripper and cleaning to get down to bare wood. You results will vary with the number of layers.

5) Once the paint is all gone get yourself a large jug of methyl hydrate. This is also a good time to turn all those nasty old t-shirts into rags. Soak a rag with the methyl hydrate and give the wood a good scrubbing. This will clean off any paint, varnish or shellac residue and leave you with a clean wood surface.

6) If you are foolish enough to take on a project of this magnitude, get a bunch of audio books and be prepared to spend a good chunk of your life sniffing fumes.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to get back to the stripping. Yes, you heard me.

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