Stripping wood furniture is sometimes a last resort if you are refinishing an antique piece of furniture. When furniture has been mishandled or mistreated, stripping the finish and starting over may be the best solution. Many people buy second hand wood furniture with the intent of stripping and refinishing, others have furniture in their possession for years and decide it is time to put a new finish on. Whatever the reason, stripping furniture becomes a necessary first step in giving life back to an original piece or just to salvage a piece from the scrap yard .
Re-amalgamation is the process of melting shellac or lacquer allowing it to return to its former state as a hard, smooth finish. De-amalgamation, then, would be the removal of these finishes instead of using harsh paint and varnish strippers.
Test for type of finish on the piece you are working on. In an inconspicuous spot, rub the finish with denatured alcohol, if the finish dissolves it is shellac. If the finish dissolves partially, mix equal parts of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner and test again. If it dissolves, it is a shellac and lacquer formula, this is the mixture you will use for the next steps. If denatured alcohol did not dissolve the finish at all, use lacquer thinner and test it in a hidden area, if it the finish turns rough, then smooth it is lacquer, if the finish crinkles but does not turn smooth it is varnish and will require a different process than is written here.
You will need denatured alcohol and/or lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, a throwaway paintbrush, plastic putty knife, brass brush, #0000 steel wool, rubber gloves and paper towels.
Denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner evaporate fast, so you will need to work as quickly as you can to remove the finish. Brush the solvent on a small area of the piece, allow the solvent to set for ten to fifteen seconds and wipe off the melted finish. Continue to work until the entire piece is stripped.
Clean the entire surface with alcohol or thinner and a putty knife or scraper to remove any residue that may be left. Brass brushes or # 0000 steel wool is excellent for cleaning tight corners, carvings or crevices.
When stripping is complete, allow the piece to dry overnight before applying the new finish. Make any repairs needed at this point. Learning to refinish a piece of furniture is not just a great do it yourself project, it saves money and gives you a great deal of satisfaction.