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Thread: antique doors

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Dublin, IN.

    antique doors

    Hi all,
    I am in the process of redoing (hopefully not restoring) a church bi-fold door. The door is a panel door 9 feet long and 32 " wide. It is coming apart so a re-glue is in order. The first coat of finish on it is either shellac or varnish, not sure which. (How can you tell?) The door is at least 80 years old. One side is painted with what I believe is an oil base paint over the varnish/shellac. That finish has been on it for at least 50 years now. When I sand it there are spots that get gummy. What causes 50 year old paint to get gummy when sanded?
    When I started working on it I put towels down on the saw horses to keep from scarring the varnish/shellac. Two days later I turned it over and the towels were stuck to that finish. Is that humidity causing that? That finish has got to be as old as the door. I have new paint for the painted side but now I have the other side with towel stuck in the finish. Don't know what I will do to correct that. Water is a no-no because of the spotting it will do and I hadn't planned on refinishing that side. Is there any way to do that without a complete sanding? I would like for it to look decent but it is a volunteer job. This door is one of 10. It is in a series that folds together or pulls apart for a room divider. I really don't want nine more of these to refinish so they all look the same. I know, lots of questions but I'm very curious why these old finishes are acting the way they are. I can't imagine they aren't cured after all these years.
    Gary R.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    Alcohol will dissolve shellac, but not varnish.

    Fifty year old paint might well be lead based - and hazardous to breathe if you're sanding it off.

    Because of the 'stickiness,' the paint might be old latex, but some old oil-based stuff might well soften, too.

    To do it right, plan on doing the other nine, as well.
    Jim D.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Dublin, IN.
    Sure wish I was as quick minded as you. I could not figure out how to tell if the original finish was shellac or varnish. I should have had my thinking hat on. Today we soak dry shellac in alcohol. The mixture will glue fountain pen rubber sacs to the section of the pen when restoring the ink holding abilities of the pen. Now I know the original finish is shellac. Sanding is only done with a mask. I really didn't know latex paint was made that many years ago. I can't imagine doing nine more of these doors.
    Have you ever worked on any thing like this? I ask because there is one more I have to take down and I haven't been successful yet. It is one that hangs from the track with a bolt in the middle (of the top). I haven't been able to unscrew the bolt. Don't know if there is a trick to it or not. Each door weighs about 30-40 lbs. I can't find anything on the www. about these doors. If this discription is clear as mud, let me know. I'll try to get a picture.
    Last edited by Gary Rubendall; 08-31-2016 at 11:48 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Clear as mud

    You might grab a lead test kit from the big box, they aren't that expensive and it'll let you know what your dealing with anyway.

    If it's not lead at little heat from a low heat heat gun and scraping does a pretty good job of most paint. Less desirable with lead unless you have a real good supplied air respirator.

    Some striper might save you a lot of sanding on the paint otherwise (or instead). I could see trying to sand most paint off (except hard enamel) would make me want to pull all my luxurious locks out.
    Love thy neighbor, yet pull down not thy hedge.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Outside the beltway
    My experience lead-based paint when sanded with a fine sandpaper turns almost to attack very very powdery. Your gummy sent sending comes from acrylic paint latex number of coats over top of it. I wouldn't worry about everything I wood strip everything off. Sand the door with 220 sandpaper then apply free coats of Minwax tung oil 50% thinner 50% tung oil. Sanded down nice with 220 sandpaper then add a few coats of hundred percent tung oil sand between coats. This is an easy finishing process I think you'll be able to handle
    I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
    ::: Andrew Wyeth :::

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