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Mahogany whitish with paint in carving

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Mahogany whitish with paint in carving

A round of carved Honduras Mahogany was possibly dip stripped leaving a whitish residue and paint in the grooves of the carving.

Among other things I suggested applying stiripper and putting the carved manogany in a plastic bag to allow the stripper a longer time to work.

Stain and tung oil make a good finish for a piece of wood like this.

(More below)

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Mahogany whitish with paint in carving

Email question:

Good morning, I have been searching the web to find information about this problem. I hope you can help me. I have a carving that is made from a 3" thick round of ribbon mahogany from Honduras. It is about 24" across. The carving is very deep and detailed. It was painted and has been outside for years. It may have been vat dipped to remove some (but not all) of the paint. Now it is a dead gray/white in over all color with some remaining paint in the groves and around the details. How can I restore the beauty of the wood and the color of the grain? I can send a picture if you are interested. Thank you so much for your time. Mary

Email reply:

Hi Mary

A picture always makes things a little easier to figure out. Please send it as an insertion rather than an attachment.

Residue left after dip stripping and paint in carving

When wood is dipped to remove paint there is generally a residue left on the surface, that could be what the whitish appearance is. Most furniture needs to be sanded after dipping, because the dipping solutions are so strong that they cause the softer wood to have a fuzzy surface. Your carving may not have that fuzziness, because most of the surface would be end grain. When you take a piece of wood and cut at any angle on a side grain it creates end grain.

We'll hope that your carving had a clear finish or a sealer on it before it was painted. That would seal the end grain. End grain soaks up more paint than a side grain does.

Strip the rest of the paint in the carving

Apply some paint stripper to the carving and let it work for as long as possible. There's a good people and environment friendly stripper called Citristrip. Try using a medium bristle brush, like a vegetable brush, very carefully and see if you can remove some more paint and some of the residue. Try that process several times to remove as much as possible.

Be sure to wear eye protection when you're brushing and picking. The brushing really sends little particles flying, so protect everything around the area where you're working.

Cover the stripper with plastic

If there is still paint in the deeper places apply a heavy coating of stripper and seal the carving in a plastic bag and let it sit for several hours, maybe even over night. When you open the bag apply another coat of stripper to re-activate the other stripper and make it more soft, then take a piece of wood dowel about the diameter of a pencil and sharpen it in a pencil sharpener and start digging out the softened paint. The point of the dowel will get mushy pretty quickly, so you have to keep sharpening it, but it's soft enough that it won't gouge the carving. You may have to do that processs a few times.

There's more information about the sharpened wood dowel process on our web site at Furniture Restoration and Furniture Restoration Procedure.

Stain the carving

After you get the carving cleaned up you'll probably need to stain it to even out the color. An oil stain would be best as it would add some oil to the wood and is easier to work with when staining carvings. Use two brushes to apply the stain. One to apply the stain and the other to get the excess out of the tight areas. Wipe as much excess as you can with a cloth, then use a dry brush to remove the rest. Wipe the brush frequently to keep any excess stain off. The end grain will really soak up stain and get darker quickly, so start out with a stain that is lighter in color than what you want. You can always darken, but you can't lighten. There's a good selection of stain on our web site.

Apply a clear finish

After you let the stain dry over night you'll need to apply a clear finish. Tung oil would work well for your carving. Use the same method to apply tung oil as the oil stain, removing the excess with a dry brush.

The Rockler's Tung Oil is pure tung oil and a little thicker than the other available, which is Chinawood Deck Oil. The Chinawood Deck Oil is pure tung oil, but thinned with some people and environment safe solvents to make it easier to work with. Both are real good products and will add oils to the wood. They soak into the top surface of the wood and harden and leave a film on the surface that hardens too, making a pretty good finish.


Response to my reply

WOW! Thank you so much for such a detailed answer! I was wrong about it being a cross cut slice. On closer examination it is cut from a plank. I have attached  pictures of its original condition when we got it. Much of the paint has come off with Murphy's Oil Soap and a toothbrush & orange stick. We will now try your suggestions. When we are done I will send you a picture of the restored carving. I have often done minor restoration of old tables and I love tung oil for the finish it provides but with this piece I could not use steelwool could I?? The surface seems too soft and the carving too deep. Any way...its a project for this spring! Thanks again. Mary

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