Friday, December 2, 2011

Refinishing My Old Back Wood Door

Once again I did something that when before I started it seemed like a great idea, but as soon as I started, it was "Oh no what did I do".  Now that I am done I am glad I did it but the process to get there was not pleasant.
When I decided to strip the 200 layers (slightly embellished number) of paint and varnish off of my back door it seemed like it should be a quick and simple thing; Just sand down the door, put some polyurethane finish on and BAM you have a new door.
It didn't quite work out that way in reality.  I started by trying to sand the door with some 60 grit sand paper.  After about 10 minutes I hadn't made it very far so I started to look for other ideas.  I called a neighbor of mine who does custom furniture for a living and asked what he would do in this situation and I was told to buy some paint stripper gel.
I went to the local Home Depot and bought some Klean-Strip 1 which came in both sprayable and gel form. I ended up getting the gel form that you wipe on with a paint brush.  The stuff is pretty harsh so it recommends using chemical resistant rubber glove, everywhere it touched my bare skin burned.  The results were amazing though. Within minutes after brushing on the gel I could already begin to see it working.  The paint began to boil and after waiting the recommended time I used a plastic scrape tool and began to scrap off the paint.  It actually came off pretty easy, but also left a pretty big mess.  I had to re-apply the gel paint stripper multiple times before I was able to get all of the paint off. I actually ran out of the gel kind and decided to get the spray on type. I liked the gel a lot better because it seemed to cover better and was easier to apply.

The door was pretty beat up and had all sorts of cracks in it that the paint had filled in, so I had to use the paint stripper and a wire brush to get it out.  Once I was got all of the paint removed or just tired of trying to get all the paint removed, it was time to once again pull out the sand paper.  Before I could do that I had to clean off the gel stripper using mineral spirits and a rough sandpaper.  (I was able to tell after finishing the whole door, where I missed so I would recommmend you do a better job of cleaning the stripper off of the wood then I did because the stripper is not stainable and does not absorb the varnish the same as real wood)
Because the door was so beat up I did have to putty some holes, the largest being where there use to be an old Mortise Lock (I just call them a skelenton key lock). Because the holes were so big I had to make small wood plugs to put in them first before putting putty over the top. I used Minwax wood putty in the pine color to try to match it up the best I could. With holes this big I wasn't going to be able to have it blend perfectly but I guess that is part of the charm of an old wood door.


The edges of the door were pretty beat up and uneven as well so I pulled out my craftsman electric planer and smoothed them down so they were even and straight.
Now that all cleanup work was done I could finally get to the finishing work. I started off with a rough sandpaper and worked my way up to a very fine. I bought a package of Nortons sandpaper that contained a variety of grits, as well as a coupleof the Norton rubber sanding blocks. They are wonderful. This time sanding was easy, with the paint off and the wood exposed it was just a matter of smoothing the door down and removing the blemishes.

Once the door was nice and smooth it was time to apply the polyurethane finish. I used Minwax that I had left over from when I refinished the cubboard.  After following the directions of the polyurethan finish and sanding between coats the door was finally able to be hung.
One thing I did before hanging the door was to take the old hinges that were also covered in paint and I ran them over my 6 inch wirebrush wheel until they were nice and clean.  They really did turn out pretty good.  After they were clean up they had a nice rustic look them them that I love.

You can see that they were covered in a thick coat of paint. One of my pet peeves is when people won't take the time to ether tape the hinge or remove it before painting.  If you are going to do a job just do it right the first time so you or I don't end up wasting time fixing it later.

After days (and quite a few hours) later I was finally able to put my back door on again.  While going through the process I often thought that I shouldn't have even started this job, or that I should have just bought a new door, but in the end I was happy with my work and glad that I was able to reuse my old door while saving money on the process.  I guess its my own little way to recycle.

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