The Cross House

A Continuing Niche


Last week.


This week!




BEFORE. The door had some profound alligatoring.


AFTER. Gorgeous! I am using denatured alcohol to dissolve the old shellac. The process takes away a lot of the built up shellac but not all the shellac. The oak still retains a finish. If I sanded a section you would see white wood as opposed to this lovely finish.






BEFORE. The hardware of the as yet restored telephone closet door.


AFTER. The north door. After taking off the hardware, I also use denatured alcohol to remove the old shellac, and then just gently buff with 0000 steel wool.


Sooooooooooooooo fabulous.



25 Responses to A Continuing Niche

  1. Oh, Ross, you dear dear man. THANK YOU! for all the lovely painstaking work you are gifting the world and the Cross House in particular.

  2. The 1894 Cross House HAS to be singing “A-Mazing Grace”. I can feel her pride increase in each reveal you perform, Ross!

  3. I am curious, will you now leave the wood as-is, or will you put a coat of varnish on it? I am a little jealous of your light wood trim; I have found that my trim, under umpteen coats of paint, was actually very dark originally. That is NOT what I expected to uncover, and I was really reluctant to take back the light maple stain I had bought and exchange it for a darker shade.

    • I am careful about how much old shellac I remove. The ideal is that some remains. But sometimes too much is removed, and the wood became too blond. In such areas I will put on a single coat of amber shellac. Otherwise, what you see in the above images will remain as is.

  4. So Ross, I was just dreaming …
    I know the restoration of the phone booth will be an exciting novelty for the house – the high-tech communications hub of many yesterdays. Though novel, such rooms are obviously, no longer necessary and I was wondering, will you repurpose it temporarily to be something else? A coat closet? A handy seasonal storage closet? A wine cupboard, perhaps? Only mildly curious if you’d even planned on any “use” for it at all really…
    Recalling the quirky “Dark Shadows” movie, the *secret treasure room* behind the fireplace became the place where Michelle Pfeiffer’s character kept her macramΓ©. It was such a 70s thing, it just gave me a giggle. πŸ˜‰

    Will this once magical booth ever again transport a weary traveler home or, possibly to some far off, exotic location? I can see the interior walls pinned with postcards from everywhere, of unknown people & places – past and present. It could become the house’s private, ever evolving, mini art installation.

    Truly excited to see beauty revealed. πŸ’™

  5. I risk asking a question you’ve already answered, but that I haven’t read. You clearly are the expert at carefully stripping bad shellac, however, and as I anticipate doing it in most of our house, I want your secrets!

    What tool do you use for stripping with the alcohol? Do you use the 0000 steel wool directly, or do you first use a rag (of what type?) soaked in alcohol, then follow with the steel wool? Any other special techniques? You are having amazing results, with what appears to be minimal re-staining or blotchiness, and I would love to achieve your results on my work!

    • I have the same kind of question: do you use an old toothbrush, artist brushes or what to get into the nooks and crannies of the detailing? Those places would have a buildup of shellac, dirt and yucky? How are you getting it so nicely done with out going TOO far?

  6. Amazing job, I just love the style of the woodwork, beautiful. So much easier than stripping the finish off. My husband did this on some windowsills in our former old house and they turned out so well. He called it reamalgamation. Not sure is this is spelled correctly.

  7. It’s looking great Ross. It continues to amaze me how different it looks when the old shellac is removed. I’m glad you were able to raise the ceiling back up to the original height. Does it make a big difference? I imagine that it would.

  8. I sure wish I would of known about that stuff when I did my house. Amazing! Will you be removing and repairing the wood where the light switch was/is?

  9. It’s amaazing how much cheerier it looks now. This shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. If I had as many awesome details to restore as you do, I’d probably be jumping back and forth between them and living in a ruin for decades.

  10. The Cross house restoration is turning me on to lighter wood. You can really see all the magnificent details with the darkened shellac removed. I don’t know where I got this idea from, that darker stained wood is more expensive and stately. Probably my mom.

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