Furniture restoration gurus: help me save my DIY desk!
May 27, 2014 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I stupidly bought a piece of maple coated with something called "Durakyrl," intending to use it as the surface of a desk. Now I don't know how to get the Durakryl finish off so that I can turn this boring workbench top into furniture. Further complications inside.

I bought this awesome-looking piece of maple, planning to use it as the surface of a desk:

It was coated in something called Durakryl, which I happily sanded off to what looked like bare wood. Then I stained it. Something was wrong - the stain was not soaking in. Never one to let logic stand in my way, I shrugged my shoulders waited a day, then slapped a few coats of polycrylic on. Four days later, my lovely new finish could be scraped off with my fingernail.

I'm guessing that when I sanded off the original Durakyrl, I just took off the surface coating and failed to clear the pores of the wood of this stuff, preventing my stain from soaking in.

So now I need to remove my own coat of polycrylic, plus the original Durakryl I clearly failed to remove the first time. My google-fu tells me little about Durakyrl - apparently it is a UV-cured industrial finish, although I'm not sure.

How should I proceed from here? Can I attack the wood with a wood stripping product and remove this industrial-grade gunk that was preventing my stain from setting? Or do I need to get the wood planed down? Or should I just set the thing on fire and take up basket-weaving instead?

Thanks in advance for your advice!
posted by chickenandwine to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, you can use a cabinet scraper to remove the mess, and then I'd probably try to find a cabinetshop with a very large planer that would be willing to take 1/8" or so off of the tabletop. Be sure you let them know the story, because they may want to know what's going into their dust collection system. I can't imagine that whatever Grizzly put on would go that far into maple - I think the sanding just didn't quite remove all of the previous finish.

If you're inclined you can do the job yourself with a very sharp hand plane, but it would not be an easy job. Of course then you wouldn't have to move that monster piece of wood...
posted by BillMcMurdo at 7:26 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This document tells what chemicals attack Durakryl 102 and which don't. It seems very tough, notably getting a "pass" for trichloroethylene which is a very strong and nasty solvent. Mechanical methods seem preferable.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 7:49 PM on May 27, 2014

If you decide to plane the top, you could do it yourself using a router and a flat bit by using a jig. The wood whisperer has a good video describing the process.
posted by Poldo at 7:52 PM on May 27, 2014

You should totally take it to a cabinet maker to put in his planer, like BillMcMurdo said. It's the easiest, by far.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:11 AM on May 28, 2014

Best answer: Generally agreeing with the above, mechanical removal of the finish, along with a bit of the wood, is what you need. The 1/8" amount mentioned by BillMcMurdo above is way overkill -- even 1/32" would be more than enough.

Far and away the quickest, cheapest thing is a cabinet scraper, but the learning curve to sharpening and using them can be a little steep if you don't have someone to coach you at first.

Most small cabinet shops (the only kind of cabinet shop that will even entertain this project) won't have a 24" surface planer, and anyhow a planer is not likely to leave a great finish on butcherblock because the grain is oriented in so many different ways and will be prone to tearout in some areas. A wide belt sander is the better machine to ask about, but the problem with wide belt sanders is that they use very large and expensive sandpaper belts which can clog up and be ruined if you try to sand off anything soft and gummy (e.g. a failing coat of Poly Acrylic) so to go that route you'll probably have to sand or scrape off most of the finish you applied anyhow.

FWIW, some hopefully helpful thoughts about finishing something like this:

*Catalyzed industrial finishes are great because they are tough, resistant to chemical damage and not much sticks to them!

*But, it's a pain to refinish wood coated with catalyzed industrial finishes because the finish is so tough, resistant to chemical stripping, and not much sticks to it.

*If your stain doesn't soak in to your freshly stripped wood surface, then you didn't really get all the old finish off and you should resume stripping rather than forging ahead.

*If you must put a fresh coat of finish over an old finish and aren't sure whether the two finishes are compatible, then a wash coat of shellac thinned with extra alcohol can be a big help because shellac has this almost magical quality: shellac sticks to almost anything, and almost anything sticks to shellac. You could probably varnish a lump of axle grease if you gave it a wash coat of shellac first. (note that shellac is a very specific substance, not a vague general term for 'transparent wood finish').

*Almost all stains available in hardware/big box stores are oil based. Poly Acrylic is a water-based finish. They're not completely incompatible, but in order to put your water-based topcoat over your oil-based stain, the stain must be TotallyCompletelyFully dried and cured, which takes a while. If you do this again, wait at least a full day after staining before topcoating. Longer is better.
posted by jon1270 at 2:58 AM on May 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Undoing any finish, such as Durakryl or less stronger finishes, is a daunting task. Especially on a finger-joined maple. I am guessing that you may have to shave off at-least a 1/8th inch or more of surface before you can reveal natural, unadulterated wood grain. FurnitureGuys on PBS made removing a finish from a piece of furniture look real easy [they are now on YouTube].

In an extreme case when you are successful in removing the Durakryl off of the surface, the new stain wont look pleasing to the eye because of inconsistency of the joined pieces. Plus you have to sand it really really good for any stain to go on smoothly. I would suggest that you resurface it with premium pine (New Zealand knot free pine from Home Depot, for example) or some other wide-board hard or softwood from your home center. BTW, they also sell finger jointed pine boards as wide as 36 inches.

Finger-jointed wood surfaces are not really good candidates for resurfacing. Good luck to you
posted by Tehseen at 7:43 AM on May 28, 2014

Get this Bahco cabinet scraper. you'll also need some wet/dry sandpaper of approximately -200 -400 -800 grit (or whatever they have that's finest) a piece of flat glass or granite tile and use the shank of a drill or router bit to turn an edge on it. Peruse the sharpening/usage instructions on youtube.

You may need to do the rough removal with a paint scraper though. I once tried to get the "diamond coat" finish off some pre-finished maple flooring and it was a lot of work.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2014

I'd probably use a paint scraper to get down to bare-ish wood and then use a router and planing jig to skim off an 1/8th of an inch or so of material to get down to wood that was unlikely to have been adulterated. I'd then follow up with either a jointer hand held plane or, if the grain of the glue up was to squirrely for that, with a hand held belt sander followed by a cabinet scraper to take off the fuzzies.

Using a hand plane to flatten this kind of glue up can lead to large amounts of tear out because the wood wasn't selected to have all grown the same direction. Doubly so if finger jointed.

The belts for hand held belt sanders are relatively cheap so if they end up clogged up you aren;t out a lot of dough. With practice you can obtain a very flat surface with one.

A card/cabinet scraper is a lot of work for anything but finishing and is a real work out for the fingers. They also get really hot so be careful not to burn your fingers.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2014

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