1950s wood kitchen, “Before”:
… Cabinets painted black, “After”:
… But then: 50 hours of stripping later, “After” returns to “Before”… back to the natural wood:
Yes, haven’t we all done it — made a *big* decorating *mistake* that then takes hours to unwind. After he bought his 1950s house, Uncle Atom tried to dial up the retro in his original kitchen by painting the cabinets black, to coordinate with the black-and-white floor he also installed. But, it was just too dark, he said. So, some 50 hours of paint stripping later — he has returned his 1950s Scheirich kitchen cabinets to their original natural wood glory. A lesson here, maybe: Wood is good — especially much of the stuff used for kitchen cabinets back in the 1950s and 1960s…. So think long and hard before painting over it. As an alternative: Maybe a good cleanup and a fresh coat of shellac (or another product — I know readers have different favored methods) and the cabinets will be like new again for another few decades?
Continue on to learn about Uncle Atom’s process for removing the paint and then restoring an original finish to the cabinets… Dental picks, anyone? –>
Hi Pam,Our kitchen cabinets have a total of 18 doors, 7 drawers, and a lazy susan. I chose to tackle the job in sections so we could continue to use the kitchen throughout. I used pieces from a large roll of construction paper to protect countertops and floors while I stripped the cabinet faces.
On average it took a few minutes to remove a door and seal the hardware in a ziplock bag to keep from losing any screws or other pieces. It also took a few minutes to apply the stripper. Then I would wait about an hour on average for the stripper to do its work.
I used a standard razor blade holder for scraping off the loosened paint and it usually peeled off easily. Since there was white primer under the black paint, if I started scraping away the black too soon, the primer would not easily come off. A few times I had to apply more stripper to break up the primer, wait another hour and then scrape again. Then I used steel wool to remove any remaining paint or primer. I pulled the razor blade scraper through the routed channel on the door edges to get the paint out of the corners and crevices, then I followed with coarse steel wool and sandpaper. For tiny stubborn areas on doors and cabinet faces, I used dental picks I keep in my workshop.I probably spent a total of about 1-2 hours on each door panel (applying stripper, scraping, rubbing with steel wool and/or sandpaper, wiping everything down with mineral spirits, and finish sanding.) in a couple of cases the razor peeled back a piece of the wood, and then I had to glue and clamp the wood down. Once the glue dried I sanded the glued section to smooth that area out. Drawer fronts took about one third of the time that went into a door panel.
Before I shellacked a piece I wiped over it again with mineral spirits to remove and sawdust or specks of dirt. I didn’t think I needed to condition the wood, and after I shellacked one door as a test, I chose to skip a conditioning step.I gave each drawer front and door panel two to three coats of amber shellac on all surfaces and edges. The shellac dries very fast (less than five minutes). If the dried shellac had some rough areas I used very fine steel wool to smooth things out. I used the time I had while waiting for the stripper to work to clean, prime and spray the door and drawer handles with metallic copper paint.Once each door panel was done, I reattached the hinges and handles and reattached the door to the cabinet face. I chose to wait on reattaching the door catches and did those at the end of the job all at one time. (It takes a little adjusting to get each door catch to line up so it will correctly function to keep the door closed.)I used about four large containers of the Citrus Strip and a couple of quarts of Bullseye Amber shellac.It took me about six weekends and some evenings of work to get everything done. We’re very happy with the results, and now I’m motivated to tackle the countertops next although I haven’t decided what kind of Formica to use. I wish I could find something close to the mint green with gold specks Formica we have now. It’s in pretty rou shape with some burn marks. Soon I hope to get our vintage Frigidaire Flair double oven installed in the 40-inch wide space where we have a smaller oven right now.
I forgot that you asked for a photo of me. Here’s one of me in the wayback of my old station wagon, a 1969 Mercury Colony Park I restored a few years ago. I sold it to make room for another project.
Thank you, Uncle Atom. What a tenacious DIY-er you are — very impressive. Readers, remember, if you are stripping old paint be sure you know what’s in it… consult with a professional. Barry is the one who painted his cabinets black — so he knew there was no lead in the paint.