Suggestions for stripping varnish

Bill Mackey

LOVES Wooden Canoes
Well I got the original canvas off this 88 year old Chestnut,now is the time to decide if I want to strip the varnish or just sand and redo. All helpfull hints on how and why are appreciated. Four ribs to replace and new canvas to follow.
strip it

Chances are, its too dark and cracked to varnish over, 88 years old and all. Get it outside on a nice day and strip it. Use a hose and bucket of water, stiff scrub brush and some coarse steel wool. Keep rinsing the brush and steel wool.
When I did my first restoration, a 47 sebago Lake W/C boat, I was told NEVER use steel, by a friend, so I got those big copper scouring pads, and a brass scrubbing brush with a handle and a metal blade on one end for doing some scraping as I went along..did one half of the canoe, then turned it and did the other half...Worked well for me and I still do it that way now. Seems to work well anyway.:rolleyes: ...But then, I am still open to any way that makes that part of a restoration easier (IF thats possible-LOL:) )...UNLESS its loaded with old varnish on top of varnish, then comes out the stirpper and the power washer!
Careful with the power washer idea - that cedar is very soft and very thin. At best you will have a rough surface as the cedar erodes differently from hard to soft - at worst.... holy canoe, batman!
Yup....learned that from Bill Clement a long time ago! AFTER I almost blew a hole in the planking:eek: its soft pressure and easy does it!;)
Most good marine supply outlets carry bronze wool, usually the preferred product for this type of work. As effective as steel wool, no rust.
Be very careful with a power washer and cedar. The soft part will erode leaving the "rings" proud. Very hard to sand out and shows through the varnish as a sort of weird grain effect.

Stripping is NOT fun and you will need very good gauntlet gloves. Getting the active ingredient on your skin will almost immediately feel like a burn - fortunately, water instantly neutralizes the burn. It takes time but this is the time to do it - the beauty of the wood will be restored when you get that old blackened varnish off. Be sure to re-varnish with a spar varnish and NOT a urethane.
I had access to stainless steel sponges [curley Kates] & chem resistant PVC gloves w/ a large gauntlet...still got stripper on the back of my forearm...

The antique piano look of my Old town influenced me to strip it off...the reaction to the interior shows me it was worth it!
Good discussion. I strip furniture at the shop and from what I can tell by the conversation syntactic steel wool and methyl chloride will remove anything you all are talking about fast. Water rinse or Denature Alcohol. The Denature Alcohol is what I like to use best because it will not raise the grain which leaves sanding at a minimum.