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Removing stain from wood – best route?


This is a plea for expert opinions from all you smarty-pants wood strippers out there…
A coworker of mine is wondering how best to remove stain from woodwork in his house. Everything I’ve stripped has involved paint, shellac, or a combination of both, so my favorite route has always been the heat gun (if I have lots of spare time) or PeelAway (if I’m in a hurry). This sounds like a simpler combination (?) of wood stain and a coat of varnish, and I’m not sure what his best route would be.
He says he can scrape the varnish off with his fingernail. The stain is over gumwood (he thinks) and has a funky green color to it. Do any of you have ideas as to what method would work best? I don’t want to steer him wrong!

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Gary had this to say on 07.19.06:

Try a palm sander and 80 grit sand paper. that should remove the varnish and the stain leaving a new surface to work with.

Karen had this to say on 07.19.06:

I agree with Gary. The sander should work for him. Work with a medium grit paper. Easy does it. He is just removing enough to get down to unstained wood.

Jasco makes a stripper that they say removes “all paint, varnish, lacquer, shellac, polyurethane and most stains.” It says it will not raise the grain on wood.

I bought some at Lowe’s a while back but haven’t tried it yet. I would try it in a small area to test before proceeding if you go that route.

Derek had this to say on 07.20.06:

I think the stripper might just take off the varnish. Sanding will remove the patina of the wood too, so if it’s not sanded evenly, the patina can look blotchy. I’d try the chemical stripper, then sanding.

helen robinsdon had this to say on 03.10.09:

i am trying to remove varnish from wood windows and its not doing so good i am using jasco stripper – there is probably 2 layers of varnish on the window is there a easier way i also have some wood that has darken almost black i used clorox and wood bleach both several times any suggestions

T.Stone had this to say on 10.01.09:

Try this. A orbital sander, 80 grit, to get down to wood. Be careful not to let the sander set in one place for too long. Burn marks will add to sanding time. Then use a combination of stripper, sanding pad, and folded sandpaper to get at the corners and details. Step down in grit to do final sanding. If you are going to refinish with a more tranparent stain remember that all sand marks will show. Use a wood conditioner before stainning.Be consistant throughout project.

Mark had this to say on 02.10.12:

None of these comments are helpful. You can’t just sand something down till the stain is gone. It’ll destroy the look of the thing you’re trying to preserve. Better to throw it out than wste your time. The Silent Paint Remover is the best method to remove all top coats. There are 2 part stain removers and wood bleaches that I have read will do the trick. If you find one let me know.

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