In the old days, thick varnish or paint covered up a lot of sins, including beautiful clear wood of all kinds.
Tastes have changed - now we like wood in all its variety, even if it's a bit dinged and worn.
Stripping layers and layers of paint or varnish (or both) is routine to some of us, we can see the beauty of what's underneath in our minds eye.
But it's a terrifying process!
First you have to find the right products, and reading the warnings on the label could really put you off, if you don't have a hand to hold.
No hand? That's okay, I'm here to show you how to do it.
These are the supplies I use for my furniture refinishing projects;
Put the gloves and goggles on before you start.
You'll never be able to get them on when the fun starts (when the stripper goes on).
Gloves are crucial. If by chance the stripper splashes up and onto bare skin, that's where the damp rag comes in. The chemical is neutralized by water.
Open the can of stripper - it usually has a child proof (and adult proof!) cap on it, so it takes some doing.
Pour some of the stripper into a glass jar (don't use plastic, it will melt) and put the lid back on the container.
Use one of your throwaway brushes to spread it onto your piece, paying special attention to the grooves and any kind of carving.
Then wait. Add more stripper to areas that seem to be drying out more. The paint or varnish could bubble or crack, but don't attempt to scrape it yet.
Scrub the paintbrush around to move the stripping compound into new areas.
After about ten minutes, you can start scraping to see what's underneath (go on, I know you're dying to!)
Add more of the gel, moving it into areas that aren't bubbling or cracking so much. Work at it, and soon all the paint or finish will be slipping and falling off.
To get into the tiny crannies and grooves, use a bamboo skewer.
It depends on what kind of paint it is, how it appears at this point.
Keep in mind that lots of time the paint contained lead, which is why you have the newspaper covering everything. Once the main part of the paint is off, go over it again with the gel, using a piece of steel wool this time. This can take a while to get it down to the wood.
Disposal of the waste - fold everything (old paint, examination gloves, used steel wool) up in the newspaper, and put it into the trash or take it to your local paint recycling station.
The chemical resistant gloves will dry and you can use them again, putting them somewhere dry. Don't put them in a closed bag as this will make them melt together. Store the can of stripper with other paint products, avoiding heat and freezing.