This may be the least exciting method of paint removal, but I have found it to be one of the best ways to remove decades of old paint quickly and cleanly. If you can learn how to strip paint without chemicals or heat, your prep/clean up time can be significantly reduced.
In this post, I’ll show you the tools and methods for how to strip paint effectively from just about any wood surface. A little elbow grease and the proper techniques and you’ll be a paint stripping machine!
I love cool tools! Just like most men, my attention is easily grabbed by the newest and shiniest tool that makes all kinds of promises about how awesome you will be as soon as you buy one.
Sadly, there aren’t many tools for the techie in this section, but there are some that I absolutely have to have and so should you. Buy them through my affiliate links here and you’ll get a good deal and I’ll get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) too.
This is an ingenious hollow-bodied scraper that attaches to your shop vacuum hose. It comes with a changeable 2-sided carbide blade. This little thing is fantastic for scraping flat surfaces! The dust and debris is almost non-existent when used with a good vacuum and because of that it is an EPA approved method for removing lead paint. I sell them in my store which is one of the few places you can buy one of these scrapers in the US.
This versatile scraper comes with six different contoured steel blades. Each blade has two different profiles so you get a total of 12 different shapes and sizes to scrape almost any molding profile! It has a quick change feature that makes it easy to move between blades when you need. We use this almost exclusively in my shop for the detailed work that profiles on windows and doors. demand.
You have to remove paint from more than wood if you plan on restoring your old windows and this tool is the best for the job. It takes a simple single edge razor and scrapes glass without scratching it. Make your life a little easier and wet the glass first with some water or glass cleaner and then scrape away.
It’s not new and it’s not exciting, but there is a reason it has been around since the cavemen roamed the earth. It works. Once you’re done with your scraping, the surface will need to be sanded lightly to remove any paint you missed and to level everything out. I prefer paper that has an adhesive backing so I can cut off pieces and stick them to sanding blocks of various shapes and sizes to fit whatever need my project may call for.
How To Strip Paint
Now you know the tools, but how do you scrape paint without destroying the workpiece? It’s not as hard as you think, but there are a few tips that you need to know before you get started. Before we get into technique, though, it’s time for the all important, ever present disclaimer about lead paint.
WARNING! If you scrape, sand or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. Lead is toxic. Exposure to lead dust can cause serious illness especially in children. Pregnant women should also avoid exposure.
Tip #1 Avoid Dust
Scraping creates dust and flying debris- plain and simple. Old oil-based paint is brittle and breaks into pieces as it is scraped. Because of concerns about lead paint and just common cleanliness, try to minimize the debris. Lay down a large area of plastic to catch the mess, use a vacuum scraper like the ProScraper, or work “wet.”
Working “wet” means that you mist your work surface with water to keep the small dust particles from becoming airborne. You’ll still have big chunks, but this will help keep the airborne dust to a minimum. It may make a little more of a mess, but that’s better than breathing lead paint.
Tip # 2 Go With the Grain
Always scrape with the grain of the wood, NEVER across it. If you scrape across the grain of the wood, you will tear out chunks of wood and certainly damage the surface. How do you know which way the grain goes when it is covered in paint? Good question! This graphic will help you, but know that scraping along the length of a board (in either direction) is right almost 100% of the time.
Tip #3 Use a Sharp Blade
This may sound like common sense, but if you have a lot of scraping to do you may be tempted to keep using the same blade. Don’t. When it becomes dull, you can end up burnishing (essentially polishing and making it harder to remove) the paint. Use a sharp blade and change it before it is too dull. Scraping paint is hard work, let the tool do the work, not you. Hardened steel lasts a while. Carbide last even longer, but you’ll pay more.
Now you’ve got the basics for scraping paint like a pro. Like anything, practice makes perfect so give it some time and I promise you will get better with each stroke. Listen to the wood, It will tell you what it needs. Good luck!
Read the first part of this series: How To: Strip Paint (Part 1 Chemical Strippers)
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.