IRS Overfinish Removal from 1930s Lacquer
Washington, DC: 2006
Rather than remove degraded finish from mahogany paneling and refinish four offices at IRS, we recommended taking samples to determine the condition and appearance of the original decoration. Examining a sliver of the finish under a fluorescence microscope, we learned that the original nitrocellulose lacquer was intact beneath an overcoating of pigmented varnish. This topcoat had separated into islands of pigment because too much drier had been used to speed the curing process. The government agreed to let us carry out several reveals of the original finish to determine the sequence of finishes removal and the condition of the nitrocellulose. The gelled ethanol stripper we mixed for the project removed only the oil varnish without affecting the lacquer and the client was very happy with the appearance of the original lacquer. We then trained a crew to use the ethanol gel and plastic scrapers, and follow it with tinted carnuba wax buffed into the molding recesses to add depth to the stripped surface. This approach restored an original finish, saved a great deal of time and cost, and overcame the difficulty of refinishing in an occupied office building.