The Cross House
Several readers have asked about how I do this.
NOTE: My method will only work if the old finish is shellac.
I pour denatured alcohol into a bowl.
I use a cheap, small brush.
Liberally apply to wood. Over and over and over.
Rub the brush against the wood. The old shellac will dissolve before your very eyes.
Dip a small piece of 0000 steel wool into alcohol, and then rub wood.
Take another piece of steel wool, do NOT dip, and rub wood.
Keep rubbing the wood with new bits of wool. Do not rub hard.
Alcohol dries quickly. Once it does, the old shellac will “freeze”. So, just keep rubbing with wool dipped in alcohol, immediately followed by dry wool.
I use a small brass wire brush for corners, and a small sharp pry bar to gently knock off alligator bumps.
The end point is when you take a piece of dry wool and it runs across the wood freely. If the wool meets friction, you still have shellac to remove.
Move your head back/forth to look for streaks.
Be liberal with the alcohol. You want it do do the work for you.
The work is not difficult but it takes a certain “hand” to achieve good results. I have such a hand, and Kenny does, too.
I have noticed that many people don’t complete the last bit of work, and the wood will look streaked, smudgy, and with dark build-up in the corners. In short, they do 90% of the work but the unfinished 10% makes all the difference.
Ideally, the process does not remove all the old shellac. In the above image, you are not looking at bare wood. The wood retains its original layer of shellac, soaked into the wood. The wood looks old and rich.
Sometimes, I rub too hard and the wood ends up looking kinda white-ish. I go over such areas with amber shellac. The rest of the wood I leave alone as there is no need to shellac it.
By NOT re-shellacing all the wood, somebody, a century from now, will bless you because they will not have to repeat all this work in 2118.