1902 Victorian

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There's a (s)peck with an acorn pointed at me!

All last week we'd planned to decorate for Christmas on Saturday. But when the time came to put up the tree, we got distracted. It hit us simultaneously, I think, that once the tree was in the foyer, all work would stop on stripping the woodwork until well into next year.

Somehow, without even speaking aloud our intentions, we both began working on the wood. We finally tried out ye old denatured alcohol. Hmmm. Not the miracle cure I was hoping for. There are thousands of tiny white paints specks left all over the wood, and I was under the (false) impression that the denatured alcohol would take care of it.

But while the denatured alcohol was no holy water for woodwork, we still found it to be a handy and useful tool. It cleaned away the slightly gunky top layer of shellac and left the wood smooth. It softened the paint specks so we could scrape them away, one by one by one by one by one. By one.

While I scraped specks, Darwin climbed up on a chair (a better step ladder is on our Christmas wishlist) and started heat-gunning the woodwork I can't reach. This was his first real adventure with the heat gun, and somehow HE didn't burn himself. (In the half hour I used the heat gun on Saturday morning, I managed to burn two of my fingers and my knee.)

It also turns out he is a more thorough heat gunner than I. You're shocked by this, I know. He takes a slow and steady approach. Slowly heat, slowly scrape, slowly clean the scraper. Slowly begin again.

My approach is more "let's get this done as fast as humanly possible, the denatured alcohol will take care of the specks." Ha. I wish I'd been using Darwin's method all along. This speck-scraping? It sucks. I don't recommend it for weekend entertainment. Maybe as a new torture device.

(The title's from Willow. You know, the best movie about little people and magic ever.)



mindy said...

Don't worry, I always burn myself with the heat gun too. I have a few nasty scars from it, actually!

11:35 AM  
Meredith said...

I haven't used denatured alcohol often, but when I do, I tried it with triple-ought steel wool instead of a scraper. The fine wool loosened and caught more of the specks than my scraper did.

1:05 PM  
jm@houseinprogress said...

Ditto the steel wool recommendation. That's the only thing we use with denatured alcohol and "speck-b-gone"!

Wear heavy duty rubber gloves while you are doing this, though.

3:07 PM  
Kristin said...

Ooh goodie! I can't wait to try it with the steel wool! Thanks guys, you came through for me as usual.

4:35 PM  
halloweenlover said...

Hurray! I can't wait to see pictures!

You've inspired me to work at putting up more holiday decorations!

5:38 PM  
Greg said...

My method is to have a spray bottle with the alcohol (Got that from another houseblogger) a large stack of pre-torn-off paper towels, and then the steel wool. The alcohol does the work fast and then starts to evaporate just as fast. Squirt a 6-inch square area, scrub with the steel wool, and then quickly wipe off with the paper towel.

5:49 PM  
Jenne said...


Make sure you use rubber gloves when you use the denatured alcohol. It will REALLY dry out your skin....Rob was in a lot of pain afterwards.

Good luck!

6:57 PM  
Jocelyn said...

I don't burn myself too bad but I have made my hand numb for holding the gun for too long!

looks like you got good advice from the crew here too- gloves and steel wool- it works

10:25 PM  

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