furniture stripping is the worst

November 7, 2010

Way back in the beginning of summer, I found this piece of furniture in a pile of trash in someone’s front yard. It looked like they were totally gutting the entire house, old windows and doors strewn about the front yard. Trucks, plumbers and electricians in the driveway. I did a quick drive-by to see if there was anyone around. The coast was clear so I drove back around, opened the trunk and tossed it right in. My foot was shaking on the gas pedal as I drove away! I’m not sure if I was scared someone would see me or if they’d be mad I was taking their trash. But they clearly didn’t want this old, dirty piece of furniture. So why did I?!

Have you ever stripped finish off of wood before? Don’t. It is not as fun or glamorous or gratifying as it sounds. My friend Rachel gave me some tips on how she stripped and re-finished a lovely piece, she made it look so easy! I had been looking forward to putting this piece in the bathroom of our Man Cave with a cute little lamp, candles, towels, etc. But NOOOO. It was not meant to be.

The story goes like this:

I decide I’m going to fix this beat-up little guy and bring him inside. I want to strip off the old yucky dark stain and see if I can stain it a little bit lighter, a more honey-colored finish.

The top is water damaged and warped.

But we peel it right off and it actually had pretty, smooth wood underneath. You can see the wood grain and knots, very nice. I get excited and think it’s going well, already envisioning the finished product. BAD IDEA.

It’s awful. I start with the front, three sections of pretty beveled wood. Not a good idea. The curves make it so hard to get the stain off. There are cracks and crevices everywhere. I try to use the brush with really strong bristles but it gets too goo-ey. Everything is goo-ey. Then Allen comes to save the day. He starts on the sides – straight, flat, easy to use a little scraper thing, right? WRONG.

IT’S LAMINATE! Everything but the top and those front beveled pieces is laminate!


Damn. I was so mad. And sad. I waited months to do this project and got so excited about it. Total disappointment.

Allen handed me a hammer and said I could take my frustration out on it. I hit it one time and felt a little better. But it was too loud and violent. Then Allen took over and enjoyed being boy, destroying something.

So there. Take that, little laminate piece of crap. I win.

Also, a tip. Don’t put your remover in a plastic container. It will eat through the plastic. Just like your mom said.

The moral of the story: Check to make sure you’re not about to “strip” the “finish” off of laminate.

The other moral of the story: Listen to your mother. Your mom is not joking when she tells you this is not an easy project. You think “Ha, it can’t be that bad. I can do it. I’d like to try it myself.” Don’t be fooled, your mom has probably tried this very project herself. Don’t you know this by now? Your mom is also not joking when she says that the remover solution will eat through your skin and clothes and anything it comes into contact with, hence the plastic container. “It’ll be fiiiiiine,” I say. When you grow up and have a newlywed daughter who wants to do lots of DIY projects, just snicker and say “Send me a picture! Let me know how it goes!” And laugh. Laugh and remember that time when you were 23 and you learned to hate furniture stripping.

Copyright Whitney Curtis 2010-2013

4 thoughts on “furniture stripping is the worst

  1. bebba

    Been there – done that, too.
    Next time, patch the holes and glue where needed – then spray paint it.
    Moms are usually right… at least mine was.

  2. Rachel

    I agree…furniture stripping is the worst! One of my least favorite projects of all time. I died laughing reading about y’all destroying the furniture! Hilarious. I definitely had moments where I wanted to do the same – or give up. Thanks for the shoutout ;)


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