View Full Version : How to strip and refinish wood benches in 24 hrs?

02-09-2010, 09:34 AM
These benches are in the waiting room of a business that is only closed on Sundays. I need to strip and refinish the benches and baseboard sometime between closing on a Saturday and opening at 8:00 on the following Monday.

I have about 30 linear feet of benches. I don't need to do all of it at once, but the part I do needs to be dry and sittable by Monday morning (not this Monday, any Monday). I don't really want to leave the bare sanded benches during open hours. The finish now looks like some kind of polyurethane, although it could be a straight spar like varnish.

My plan:

1. Sand to bare wood (successive grits, etc).
2. Apply first coat of thinned ____________? Spar varnish? Polyurethane?
3. Sand/steel wool
4. Apply second coat
5. Wait until following weekend and repeat steps 3-4.

My questions: What finish should I use that is durable (these benches get a lot of use), but will be cured within 24 hours or so? Is there a different sequence I should follow?


Paul Girouard
02-09-2010, 09:46 AM
Daly's Aqua spar. A water borne spar varnish. With the heat set at about 70 deg. F and a couple of box fans to move some air around you could easily get three coats on in a 24 hr. period.

Or use Deft , dries fast , kills brain cells faster.

Regular sprayed lacquer also dries fast and is a durable finish for interior use.

Again it stinks to high heaven.

So if you have to ask this question my guess would be the Aqua spar would be the simplest finish to apply for you. Do it tip and roll style , which really should be called roll and tip. Spread finish with small roller , brush out after .

Good luck, you'll be needing it I think.

02-09-2010, 09:50 AM
So if you have to ask this question my guess would be the Aqua spar would be the simplest finish to apply for you. ...
Good luck, you'll be needing it I think.

In this economy, I have to ask the question because I have to do it myself. In a different economy, I would not have to ask the question.

Paul Girouard
02-09-2010, 09:59 AM
In this economy, I have to ask the question because I have to do it myself. In a different economy, I would not have to ask the question.

Ah a DIY'er I'd say use the Aqua spar it has some amber tone to it so it give wood that amber cast that people like to see. Like Norman said most water born es are very clear so they look, IMO, to clear, they add no tone so the wood looks "funkie".

They are NOT cheap by any means the Aqua Spar is around $75.00 a gallon here.

As is "Crystal Fin" spelled wrong I'm sure but gotta go to work so no time to check that out.

For a DIY'er the water borne's the way to go.

02-09-2010, 10:05 AM
Benjamin Moore makes a "quick dry" finish......It used to be called "1 Hour finish" but then they had to change the recipe due to VOC laws.....Still dries fast. If you use it, make sure it's fresh. If it has any gummy sludge in the bottom of the can it is useless. I found this out the hard way, after I spent a half hour with the power paint stirrer, and 2 hours coating an Oak wall unit... 72 hours later it was still gummy. I finally scraped it all off and got a fresh can. Worked beautifully.

Henning 4148
02-09-2010, 03:05 PM
One person job or team?

Regarding stripping - I have (finally) tried a scraper last year and really like it - much more than sanding. With a heavy sander, you can remove a lot of varnish fast, but may not reach any hollows and you can also remove a lot of wood locally even faster - and chances are that you won't be getting into the seams - so, the seams need additional attention anyway ... With a scraper, you have good control, hardly any dust and can work easily into the seams as well.

Regarding the paint - two pack polyurethane just might be an option ... If mixed correctly and the temperature is correct, it should cure very reliably.

Bob Smalser
02-09-2010, 03:24 PM
Test it first.

Scrape off a sample of the existing finish and make sure it is fully chemically compatible with whatever new finish you plan to use.

You never get all the old finish off, and it doesn't take much incompatibility to add 24 hours to the stated drying times.

02-09-2010, 03:34 PM
I'd use shellac, you can get quite a few coats on that first weekend and then put something else on top the next. Great sealer and frankly a great interior finish.

Bob Smalser
02-09-2010, 03:38 PM
Test it first anyway. It won't take long. Recall all the times that your first refinish coat took twice as long to cure as the subsequent coats.

These days there are so many commercial finish options, the old acetone-alcohol compatibility tests of the existing finish can easily result in surprises that exceed your 36-hour window.

Unless of course, you like the uncertainty of unpleasant surprises with your crew drawing pay and your reputation on the line.

David G
02-09-2010, 04:08 PM
First - let me get my curmudgeonly reaction out of the way -- I can't imagine agreeing to do what you've agreed to do. I would have insisted that a rolling portion of the benches be "benched" for the period you needed to work on them. Rope off the Under Construction part and post a "Pardon Our Mess - Wet Paint" sign. I understand that a fella sometimes to do things he'd rather not agree to in order to keep busy and put food on the table. But that schedule is heavily weighted toward failure.

Even if you negotiate a more reasonable schedule, you're still gonna want to get the thing done as quickly as possible. There are lots of ways to accomploish this. Some good suggestions have been made already.

Here's how I'd tackle it --

Testing your finishes for compatability and planning on not removing all of the existing is a good idea.

Sanding only as much as necessary to get down to something solid - either intact old finish, or bare wood. It appears that there is no stain on the wood, so you don't have to worry about stain matching any areas that get sanded back to bare wood. Use whatever tools you have, but I'd aim for a Random Orbit, combined with a detail sander for the inside corners. Excellent dust collection will save you oodles of cleanup time, and much reduce the risk of getting dust in your topcoats. I use a Fein vacuum, but the Festo is great also, as are some others.

Once you've got it prepped, I'd start with 2 - 3 coats of shellac. Zinsser Seal-Coat, or clear de-waxed (super blonde). It dries fast, sands easily, isn't very stinky, and the smell doesn't linger. Then I'd put at least 1 coat, preferably 2... or even 3... of something more abrasion resistant over the top.

The water-based suggestions are fine. I happen to like the brushable water based from Benjamin Moore, but many are fine. Just make sure it's recommended for brushing. The water based has the advantage of drying quickly and allowing multiple coats swiftly. The downside is durability. It's just plain not as durable as most topcoats. It's about as durable overall as an old-school lacquer from 20 - 30 years ago.

Another option is a brushable solvent based lacquer. It won't dry as fast as the shellac or even as the water based topcoat, and it's much stinkier (though most are not as stinky as Deft - which is one commonly available brand). It has the advantage of being substantially more durable in the long run. If you have the capability of thoroughly venting the space before business opens on Monday... this might be the best option.

Another thought is spraying rather than brushing. You'd have to spend more time masking, taping, draping, etc. to protect the existing finishes, furniture, and such, but you'd be able to lay on more coats, more consistently, much more quickly than brushing.

As I said - you've gotten yourself in a bind. It's not a bind that an experienced finisher would have allowed himself to get into - which suggests to me that you might have a higher risk of some sort of hiccup during a rushed process than said experienced finisher. Even more reason to allow yourself more time. So my first advice is... Renegotiate The Schedule!!!! At least negotiate a fallback possibility - of cordoning off some rotating chunk of the work, which you can then work on in an orderly fashion.

If you are unable to do that, I wish you the best of luck. I'm happy to continue to offer advice and warnings <G>

David G
02-09-2010, 04:13 PM
I"m pretty sure the waterborne finishes can go over any previous finish... the water as a solvent won't attack anything. I've used it over floorboards that were previously finished with a spirit-based varnish, without any interaction problems whatsoever.


I'm glad you've had no problems. I have, as have many others. Even if the two finished are compatible... what about cleaning products, smears from some kids crayon, lingering hand cream palmprints, etc. That one of the reasons I suggest the shellac... as a barrier coat. The only thing it wont seal in is a havy concentration of silicone (which would likely be quite noticeable on the old finish).

John of Phoenix
02-09-2010, 04:20 PM
I started using Watco Teak Oil many years ago when I got fed up with the constant varnish/strip/sand/revarnish cycle. Fast, clean, looks great, and so easy to touch up or refinish - the picture of simplicity.

David G
02-09-2010, 05:04 PM
I started using Watco Teak Oil many years ago when I got fed up with the constant varnish/strip/sand/revarnish cycle. Fast, clean, looks great, and so easy to touch up or refinish - the picture of simplicity.

In a similar vein - I like Daly's Sea-Fin. Comparable product, but with better quality ingredients.

Even the Daly's, though, is not sufficient to the task in a commercial application. Unless, of course, the owner is willing to consent to some regular (and slightly stinky) reapplication as part of his spring cleaning regimen. Most, in my experience, are not interested in deliberately adding to their maintenance chores.

02-09-2010, 05:52 PM
Thanks for the info - the back and forth conversation is very helpful. To clarify, I do not need to do all 30 linear feet on one Sunday, but what I do needs to be dry by Monday. So scheduling is not really a problem. In addition, I own the business, so I only need to negotiate schedule with myself.

I will see if any of the staff wants some extra hours helping me out - we have been slow, so I have tried to find them hours where possible.

I will start with a small section, in order to (1) Figure out how the sanding vs scraping goes, (2) Check compatibility, and (3) see how the workflow goes - how much can I really do in one Sunday. The 30 feet is divided up into three physically separate sections - 6', 6', 18', so I will tackle one of the 6' sections first. I could also just do a chunk of the baseboard (at bottom of picture) first).