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Author Topic: How to best clean wood?  (Read 1616 times)
Dr von Zarkov
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« on: May 17, 2010, 12:29:12 pm »

I have acquired a wooden tool chest which has accumulated a deep coating of dirt and oil after years in a machinist's shop. After cleaning, I hope to stain and finish the wood.

I welcome suggestions for cleaning the wood so as to allow staining. Thank you all for your consideration.
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2010, 02:29:12 pm »

If it were me, here's what I'd do: Don't clean it Grin I love dirt and grime!

However in the past I have had the need to clean very ingrained-with-filth wood, the best way was to scrape off the top dirty layer with a knife. Sandpaper just bunged up, as did a dremel. Scraping was the only way to ensure the dirt was removed.
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2010, 08:23:28 pm »

Cabinet scraper....http://woodgears.ca/scraper/index.html. takes a knack thats well worth acquiring.
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Dr von Zarkov
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 08:53:50 pm »

Thanks, both of you. I've done the scraping of the surface grease and grime. However, the muck has penetrated the wood and messes up the stain. I need to remove the embedded oils before applying the stain. I am about to use turpentine on the back of the cabinet, where any mistakes won't be so obvious. I may later need a different solvent to remove the residual turpentine. Any thoughts, anyone?
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Shelley
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2010, 08:57:54 pm »

You might try Murphy's Oil Soap, designed for cleaning wood. http://www.colgate.com/MurphyOilSoap/home is their website, should be available in your local stores at least in the US.
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phang
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2010, 09:07:49 pm »

Second the Murphy's Oil.

You may also want to try simply sanding it down to get under it. If it hasn't penetrated too far into the wood.
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Dr von Zarkov
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2010, 02:18:02 am »

Murphy's website says:
"refinishing. As with all Murphy® Oil Soap products, do not use on unfinished wood."

The tool chest is unfinished (uncoated), so I imagine Murphy's is not a candidate.
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Birdnest
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2010, 07:15:25 pm »

Try a wood deck cleaning solution.  If its hardwood, you can use a power washer on a low setting.  After it drys, oil it with jasco or some other kind of tung oil then sand it.  You can stain over tung oil.

Good Luck!
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hardlec
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2010, 05:18:17 pm »

This is a tool chest, so it might have many small drawers.  Some techniques need to be adjusted to keep the drawers sliding easily, and some cleaners may create friction and swelling where it is not desired.

I have used Fournby's finisher-re-finisher, there are other commercial products.  If you know of a good wood-working store in the area, they may have some recommendations.  Don't waste time at a big-box store.

I'm afraid I'm with some of the others who would say:  Leave well enough alone.  An old tool chest has a patina that is usually desired and very hard to re-create.
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Otto Von Pifka
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2010, 10:02:59 am »

I have used acetone to remove gunked up varnish from furniture and to even out the remaining finish, it might help lift out the dirt too. denatured alcohol works ok too, but has a high water content so tends to soak into the wood too much and lift the woodgrain.  a paste made form powdered laundry detergent pulls stains too but can be hard on the wood and can make refinishing dificult. you will still need alot of water to clean up the soap residue.

I use linseed oil to finish most of my projects, and it can lift filth up from the wood if you use plenty and scrub with a small brush. you just wipe off the excess and add more oil until you get the look evened out.

using anything wet on it will tend to cause the fuzzies to lift from the woodgrain. I burn them off when using the linseed to finish the wood. just enough heat to take down the fuzzies and a little extra to brown the wood and the oil. changes the smell a little too, for the better IMHO.

the great thing about the oil is you can add more or rework areas and blend the finsh very easily. the bad thing is the drying time is in days to weeks to get it completely dry.
you can also use the oil on metal to protect it too.
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Gryphon
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« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2010, 03:20:54 pm »

I second Her von Pifka's suggestion - do NOT try to brush stain over old wood soaked in oil, simply re-oil the chest with a better quality of oil. 

Here's a method we've used for restoring brightwork on boats.  After you have scraped the heavy grime off, scrub with a brush and RAW linseed oil to loosen any ground-in grime, then wipe down with a tack cloth wetted with a mixture of raw linseed oil and turpentine.  At this point, you can give the wood a few days to air, or proceed directly to the next step.  On a boat, we'd use tung oil, but for household apps I prefer linseed.

When you have an uninterrupted stretch of time, begin wet-sanding with BOILED linseed oil thinned with a little turpentine, using fine and then finer grits until the wood has lightened to the desired shade.  Wipe down between grits with a tack cloth wetted with your boiled oil and turpentine if necessary.  If you MUST stain, mix an OIL-BASED stain into your boiled oil and turps mix to make a homemade Danish or French oil.  Some people add Japan dryer, but I dislike the stuff personally.  The sanding creates a grain-filling paste that will help even the color and give an incredibly silky-looking finish with patience.  The final coats should be rubbed on with a tight-weave smooth cloth or your bare hands.  Let this dry for as long as it takes (could be weeks, but it's worth it.)  To replenish a finish like this, all that is needed is a good rubdown with your oil mixture.
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bicyclebuilder
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2010, 07:12:55 pm »

Overseas we have St. Marc

It's available in liquid and powder.
I don't know if you have this in the States but that's what we use here.
But if you think the wood will swell, don't do this!
Use the method posted by Gryphon.
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Captain
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2010, 07:43:51 pm »

Murphy Oil Soap would probably be best unless it is REALLY cruddy.

I got a clean an old hoosier for a friend.  Hoosiers are very specialized antique bread making counter/cabinets for those not familiar with them (like I wasn't) but this one had been used for rendering lard and was HEAVILY stained with rancid pig fat.  His wife's family had just put it in the barn for a few years because of the appearance and smell.   I had an idea form experience getting cosmoline out of very old surplus firearms; Easy Off foaming oven cleaner.  Section by section, can by can of oven cleaner, it foamed an amazing amount of gunk out of the wood.  I washed it off with very hot water and let it dry out (pressing with weights to help prevent warping of the thinner parts) then lightly sanded the raised grain and oiled it.  I like to think that if her grandmother could have seen it that she would have been proud. 
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