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My first project- time to strip out the old varnish?

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Feathers, Jul 1, 2014.

  1. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    This is an interesting's been on quite a journey to end up here.

    If it were me, once I had myself convinced that all of the varnish has been removed, I would give it a wash with TSP. Be sure to rinse it well and then let it dry.
    The wash will give you a better picture of how well you have done with the stripper and it will also help to remove some of the residual gunk that would otherwise need to be removed with the Teak cleaner..
    After washing with TSP and if you are convinced that the varnish is adequately removed, follow with a cleaning with Teak Nu. Be sure to keep things wet and not get the order reversed or you'll cause extra work for yourself trying to get the wood the same color throughout.
    The Teak Nu should get you to a point where you can begin sanding the hull.

    At the stage you are at (varnish removal) I have had pretty good luck using soft (very soft) brushes to pull up the varnish that tends to get into the grain and in corners. I apply the stripper and then follow with a brush. Then I use the scraper to lift the clumps that loosen up. Brushing at this stage will save you some steps later when you TSP and Teak Nu since it will loosen what might otherwise be hard to get off.
    Be very careful with (scrapers) the brushes you use for varnish, TSP and Teak Nu. Brushes can really dig into the soft cedar if you work them too hard.
  2. alick burt

    alick burt LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you MGC
    Is there a UK equivalent to TSP I can't seem to find mention of it. I did see a thread where someone recommended dishwasher cleaner has anyone tried that?
    Many Thanks
  3. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Hm...I am not at all familiar with what is equivalent or available in the UK.... Possibly Trisodium Phospate (TSP) is not available due to environmental concerns? It is available here in the US. There are also phosphate free versions available here. They work less effectively but they do work.

    Dish-washing detergents (in the US) once contained a high amount (7%) of phosphates so I can understand the potential this may have had as an alternative. I am not sure if phosphates are an ingredient in the UK....possibly in Western Europe...non-EU or possibly in the UK in a few years, post-EU;)

    I often find myself wishing that this site required it's members to list their location instead of allowing it to be an optional entry.
  4. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi, Alick....I have never used/needed TSP after stripping. I am very patient with the stripper and use my little power washer with an adjustable stream, when I find, sampling here and there , that the stripper has really done its work. There are times when I will drag a putty knife over the ribs only to make sure we are getting to all the layers. And I do use a fairly stiff scrub brush on the stripper after it appears to have done its work, then wash her out. This works well on the rib edges, all areas up near the inwales and especially up under the decks where spraying is difficult.
    I then almost always go to a 2 part product called Snappy Teak and usually the hull looks brand new. I really think good stripping work is as much an art as anything else...........but for me patience and persistence goes a long way toward getting the best results. You will always find spots where softened varnish has escaped your washing. Now is the time to get it off and out as it will harden up and be a real pain later when you are sanding prior to finishing or worse when you are using the Snappy T. and ready to finish this demanding job. Have fun ! Dave
  5. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Alick - google tsp cleaner: you can get it. I'm thinking similar to sugar soap, but I'll find out in due course.

  6. alick burt

    alick burt LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Sam
    Thanks for that it appears they sell it on amazon but it sounds like nasty stuff and they don't say what concentration to go with...
    I have some sugar soap that I bought yrs ago and never used so may try that tomorrow however according to its data sheet it only contains 1% tsp which may or may not be good...
    see also here
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
  7. alick burt

    alick burt LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Folks
    One more thing is that I seem to have this white stuff near the stems that doesn't seem to come off.
    Is it best just picked off with a chisel perhaps or am I better to leave it?
    Is it perhaps white lead and highly poisonous?
    Many Thanks
    Alick 20161011_181807.jpg
  8. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    There is an easy test at the paint store for lead.
  9. johnmetts

    johnmetts Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I am on the eve of trying my first restore. If mine comes out half as beautiful as this I will be pleased. She is a lovely craft.

    John Metts
  10. alick burt

    alick burt LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you John,
    Welcome to the club :)
  11. OP

    Feathers LOVES Wooden Canoes


    As the one who started this wandering thread a long while back, welcome. And I hope you enjoy working on your canoe as much as I did mine.

  12. Patrick Strz

    Patrick Strz New Member

    Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but would a heat gun and a scraper work to remove old varnish? Or is it much better to go with the chemicals discussed here?
  13. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Varnish doesn’t do well with the heat gun in my experience. It just gets gummy and hard to pick up with a scraper. I think chemical is the way to go.
    I have a commercial furniture stripper remove varnish from my canoes, but finding one that will do canoes is difficult.
    I have had decent success with this....

    Attached Files:

    Patrick Strz likes this.
  14. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Plus with all of the intricate details in a canoe, you would be hard-pressed to get the old varnish out of all of the nooks and crannies. Chemical strippers do a great job of that.
    Patrick Strz likes this.
  15. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Jim, Etal.,
    I am currently using Ultra-Strip on the Rushton I'm working on. I got it from Jamestown Distributers. It does not melt your brain cells or burn your skin and it actually works! Not cheap however. Stripping a canoe sucks - there is no way around it. This Rushton has green paint on top of the old varnish. If I could get paint to stick to my barn as good as its stuck to the canoe I would be a happy guy. Put on the stripper, cover it with plastic sheet so it doesn't dry out so quick and wait. It is taking me at least two coats. Scrub it plastic bristle brush and scrubby pad with lots of water.
    Jim C. IMG_4062A.JPG IMG_4062A.JPG IMG_4077A.JPG IMG_4095a.JPG IMG_4106a.JPG
    Patrick Strz likes this.

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