1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Return of Tina Tingles

The heat gun and I spent a lot of time together this weekend. After the all-day paintfest on Saturday, Darwin wanted to retire to the couch and watch TV on Sunday. I, on the other hand, still felt restless.

The only thing I really could do was work on stripping the entry hall paint, so that's what I did.

Here's my progress so far (not shown is another doorway that's in about the same state of strippedness as the one on the left)

Notice how the stripping stops at a certain height on each piece of trim. That's how far I can reach without getting on a ladder. I don't do well with heights, so I'm putting that part off till last.

When I got bored with stripping trim, I decided to try out the heat gun on the 1890s walnut bed I bought at the Antique Alley sale. It has what a friend told me is called "alligatoring" (or something like that) - little bumps in the paint caused by long exposure to gas heat (or something like that) - so I wasn't sure how it would do.

The paint was very weird. I'm used to my woodwork, where there is only one thin layer of paint (no primer), and the heat makes large bubbles that come off in flakes. This paint was sticky and gooey and didn't flake off at all. When I aimed the heat gun, all the little alligator bumps started bubbling, and I had to push the scraper along as far as I could, pushing the paint goo ahead of it, then wipe off as much as I could on a piece of cardboard I kept nearby for this purpose. Much of the goo stayed stuck to the scraper. It was hard to get the details because you couldn't go back and forth at all - only in one direction and only one swipe.

So now I'm wondering ... is this difference in texture related to lead paint vs. non-lead paint? Or maybe really old paint vs. not-so-old paint. Has anyone had experience with stripping the two? On the mantel, there was an older layer of paint under the current white layer, and it seemed to be a little stickier, too.

If it's true that lead paint reacts to the heat gun by getting sticky and gooey, I don't feel worried about the lead dust effects at all. This stuff created virtually no dust because it hardened into hairball-like pellets that would only create dust if you stepped on them.



derek said...

It could be shellac, we have a thick coat of shellac under the paint on our woodwork. It's really gooey.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous said...

Bad news - alligatoring is a tell-tale mark of lead paint. That's exactly how it breaks down - into little square and rectangle chips. There's probably something online about it. There's a picture in slide 20 here:
and your hardware store should have a cheap ($10) tester kit that you can use.
Good luck!
Faster Pussycat

12:01 PM  
Greg said...

My experience is that the alligatoring is the shellac under the paint. This is a good thing is some ways. The shellac puts a protective layer between the paint and wood grain, so it is easier to get to bare wood. See if it breaks down with rubbing alcohol. If so, it is shellac. As for the possibility of lead paint, it would be a miracle if your house or that bed didn't have lead paint. Just assume it is all lead paint. A good respirator and cross ventilation will take care of any lead fumes you create, and vacuum and mop and paint chips you scrap off and you will be fine. I use a shop vac to get them up. Less dust. I've stripped acres of lead paint and have never had a problem.

2:02 PM  
Kristin said...

I don't think I was clear in my post ... I have no doubt that the old bed is painted with lead paint. I'm wondering about what's on my trim. I didn't realize there was a lead tester thing for $10; I think I'll get it just for my own curiosity. I'm not very worried about lead paint, since we don't have children. I always take care of all the mess right away after scraping, too ... don't want to tempt the kitties.

2:09 PM  

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