Q: I have an antique oak secretary’s cabinet that was painted with several coats of paint. I used stripper to remove most of the paint and have tried sanding the remainder. I can’t seem to get all the paint out of the pores of the wood although I’ve sanded and sanded. What do you suggest now?
A: I suggest you reverse course. By now you have discovered that, thanks to its large pores, trying to sand paint off oak is an exercise in frustration. Your problem is that you removed only most of the paint with the stripper when you should have removed all of it.
The key is to keep the stripper wet, as long as that takes, until all of the paint is softened and loosened. Then, using a stiff bristle brush, scrub until all the paint is out of the pores. By stopping your chemical stripping regime too soon, you gave yourself a passel of problems, but there’s nothing stopping you from backing up. Strip the piece again using a strong paint remover, and this time, be patient. Don’t take off the stripper until all the paint has been dislodged from the pores, even if that means adding more stripper to keep the wood wet until the job is completely done.