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JWragg92

Help Needed! How to remove varnish from deep in the grain

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Hi guys
 
I'm restoring a 1950s desk (oak, I believe) and I've stripped the varnish back to reveal the light wood which I'll be finishing with wax.
 
Having used varnish stripper, scraped and scrubbed with wire wool there's still a lot of varnish deep in the grain as pictured. I can sand it but its a very slow job. Any advice on getting it out? 
 
Thanks

20220120_193912.jpg

20220120_193907.jpg

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A brass wire brush can work quite well. Soften the varnish with stripper and then use the brush with the grain. Do not use a steel brush - too hard and the little bits will stain blue.

 

Once you have the varnish out of the grain you will have open grain again, so your finishing process will need to fill this. It depends what look you are going for, but if you leave the grain open, dirt will collect down there and it will end up looking pretty much like it does with the residual varnish. One way to deal with this is to use a curing oil such as Danish and build up enough layers. An alternative is to apply a curing oil (tung, linseed or Danish depending on your preference) and sand the surface with the grain while wet, using something around 320 grit to create a slurry, then rub across the grain to push the slurry down the pores - I do this step with the heel of my hand. Then wait for the oil to cure before touching it. A couple of goes like that and the pores are filled with a fine sanding dust/oil mixture which matches the colour of the wood perfectly.

 

Alec

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As someone else said, a belt sander would do the job well. Or how about splitting it along the join then running the 2 halves through a planer / thicknesser then rejoin the boards.

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