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by CareyBot

Q: I am restoring a 1917 Craftsman bungalow. It’s a basic house that was painted all white on the inside. Everything was painted white–all the Douglas fir moldings, baseboards, everything.

I have been stripping the paint for years. Fortunately, a lot of the built-up layers were painted over varnish, making removal a little less time-consuming, since the paint never became part of the wood.

But now I need to know how to remove the residual paint, the little specks here and there. I hate the idea of a chemical stripper.

The original wood under all that paint has sort of been preserved. Would you recommend a light sanding once the wood is revealed and then re-varnishing or shellacking? Or would you stain the Douglas fir? Painting is not an option after all that stripping.

A: Sometimes we receive a question that particularly jogs our memory banks. This question brings to mind the countless hours we both spent stripping multiple coats of paint off doors and trim in hopes of getting down to the natural wood.

Here’s to you for being willing to roll up your sleeves and get after it. You’ll be rewarded not only by the finished product but also by the satisfaction you get from doing it yourself.

Short of removing all the trim and taking it to the dip stripper, we’ve always found it difficult to remove all of the paint from doors or moldings. The toughest part is to clean the line where two pieces of wood join.

If you want to preserve the finish, we suggest you use a heat gun to soften the specks of paint and a dental pick to flick off the specks. Some of the varnish or shellac will bubble, but it can be sanded and recoated just fine. The job is tedious, but it sounds as if you’ve already done most of the work. Push on to the finish line.

We do not recommend trying to re-stain fir trim if the existing color is acceptable and uniform. The process is long, with at least a couple of extra steps involved, including bleach and lots of sanding. Bill went through this process at a Craftsman he owned in Alameda, Calif., with great results, thanks to hours and hours of help from our mother, Lois.

After stripping all the paint, the wood must be bleached and a sanding sealer applied for uniform penetration of the stain, then the stain and two coats of clear finish must be applied.

Rather than go through this, if the color is OK, sand and tack the wood, then apply two coats of clear finish in the sheen of your choice. Compatibility may be an issue, so start with a small test piece. The test strip will tell you if the finishes are compatible. Usually, it’s no problem. If the sample works, go for the rest of it.

And don’t forget, when it’s done, enjoy some time off–you’ve earned it.