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Spencer_J

historical restoration wood blinds project

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in october,'13 I started branching out from my regular custom furniture gig to more carpentry oriented woodworking. the project that has landed in my lap is quite an undertaking. to restore and refinish 96 2'x5' interior louvered wood blinds. the blinds are about 100 years old and in very good functional order, considering some of the frames are sagging due to glue failure or broken tenons. some louvers are split or the hardware is missing. most of them are gobbed up with many layers of paint which prohibit them from functioning well. the whole point of this projects is to make sure they are squared up & functional again, which would mean taking the gobbs of paint off. my challenge lies within the painting process. if i have to remove paint to get the shutters to work properly and then apply 3-4 more mills of paint to finish them, will they get jammed up again? 

 

my team has been talking about stripping them but that hasn't been implied by the owner or architect yet. stripping CERTAINLY is not in the budget. but neither is waiting for paint to dry & realizing they don't work again. 

 

has any one restored old painted interior wood blinds?

 

i will be working along side a EPA card holding lead paint guru. i'm confident about working with lead paint. 

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I've done exterior shutters with over 100 years of periodic paint jobs on them.  I do Preservation/Restoration for a living.  There is no fast and cheap way to do much of anything with the old stuff.  I had the shutters dipped by a furniture place.  We had to buy them a couple of changes of the solution.  After that, the guys spent at least a whole day rinsing them.  They were racked in one of my sheds all one Summer, through the rest of that year, and at the end of the next August, after a long dry spell, we sprayed them with the best Sherwin-Williams paint, after doing any wood replacement and epoxy work that was needed.  That was something over 14 years ago, and they still look good now.  A good interior job, with the best modern paint, with no old under it should last for many decades. 

 

There is no reason, if they are made strong and functional again, that they would not work properly from now on.  Some of the problems with the structure of the ones we did were because of them being drawbored.  The drawboring proved fatal to a fair percentage of the joints because the part of the tenons beyond the pins had broken loose.

 

The only other way I would consider doing it is to CO2 blast them, which would eliminate the drying time, but cost more.

 

If someone wanted me to do a fast and cheap job, I wouldn't even bother going to look at it.  Putting good paint on top of old is not going to be a long lasting job.  Any pressure about being fast and cheap, and I walk away.

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Thanks tom, since reading your valuable reply, i've reached out to a few paint strip companies & waiting on quotes.

These are made from pine or fir. After sagging for who knows how long, the joints have compressed into a non square position.

All of the joints were draw bored at some point so i'm experimenting with drilling 3/16 holes parallel to the face of the frame and injecting epoxy to secure both joints together without removing a ton of material.

I'm doing a benchmark example for the architect to see before they get painted. This way, i can test out all the methods on one before i dig into the rest.

While the epoxy cures, i'm thinking how i'm going to dry the shutters after they are dip stripped? My 550 sq ft. Shop is not heated when i am not working in it. I have a propane infrared heater which heats up objects instead of the air.

So maybe i'll set up a little room with an electric oil heater? Dehumidifier?

I'd like to get these wrapped up before the middle of march if possible. I appreciate your ethic about being rushed. I am now in a position where i can walk away from rushed work so my main reason for the deadline is because once the temperature gets above 40 i'll be needed for a mountain of exterior work.

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Nice project.  I think a small closed space with a dehumidifier and some air circulation would dry them out by then.  Maybe  a closet. I'd dry them out good before doing the epoxy work-not so much for the sake of the epoxy, but so they will have done what moving they are going to do.

 

The other option is to simply make some new copies, but that double interlocking staple connection has always evaded me.

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Amazing!!! I just watched that yesterday! It was VERY helpful. These shutters have stub tennons cut on the ends of both louvers, i wish i was working with those nylon pegs but nylon wasn't an option 100+ years ago.

I really dig that moulder jig

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I once had to restore a huge pile of old shutters and ended up having to make a bunch of replacement slats.  I set up a jig on the drill press to hold my blanks square and used a plug cutter to cut the tenons. I then trimmed off the ends with the miter saw, leaving only the tenon sticking out. The blanks will have to be exact length before you start and the plug cutter set so that it stops at the desired depth. It was simple and did an excellent job.

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a month later update: 

 

the team and i decided not to have the shutters dipped based on the 5, 6 and 12k estimates we received. we had a meeting with the clients and architect to clarify that they did not want the shutters stripped. only to be functional and re-painted. it's turned out to be an okay project so far. i took my dremel multi max (fein tool) and used it to precisely scrape the paint off of the interior frame where the sides of the louvers are held into place. this free'd up all of the louvers and allows us to keep the majority of existing paint on (seems kinda backwards) yet gaining functionality. by using the side of a 1 3/8" wood blade, i was able to chatter away the old paint very quickly and effectively. i got it down to about 40 minutes per panel of scraping. 

 

after that, i started taking the frames apart to see if the draw bore sections were intact. i'd say about 85% of them were in great shape. the worst of them were on the southern part of the building in the lower section. where they get the most sunlight and people touching them. these were made from a soft yellowish pine using tapered pegs for the draw boring. i ended up making a tapered peg shaper to create a peg that would actually fit. 

 

right now, i'm gearing up for paint testing. i've got a shellac based primer and i'm still waiting on a color before i dig into paint. a small amount of research is pointing me towards sherwin williams pro classic acrylic. i'll be spraying them with an HVLP sprayer through the compressor. i've heard that the pro classic sprays well with minimal thinning and provides a good finish for trim, doors, etc. people say it's similar to a lacquer 

if you guys have any suggestions for paint/ spraying shutters i'm all ears. this project is definitely going into my portfolio under the "learning experience" tab. so far, i'm still feeling good about it. a few of the helpers would think otherwise haha

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I had to restore an old sash windows a few years ago and I had a similar problem with the layers of lead paint affecting the sliding action.

I wasn't allowed take the window apart and getting just one dipped cost way to much, when my laziness kicked in I brought it to a friend who sandblasted it with a dust made from crushed walnut shells and it worked perfectly, it even got into all the tight corners where I was having trouble.

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I had to restore an old sash windows a few years ago and I had a similar problem with the layers of lead paint affecting the sliding action.

I wasn't allowed take the window apart and getting just one dipped cost way to much, when my laziness kicked in I brought it to a friend who sandblasted it with a dust made from crushed walnut shells and it worked perfectly, it even got into all the tight corners where I was having trouble.

That's perfect. We considered soda blasting but with the mess and amount of media, the dremel was about the same labor with much less material and equipment cost.

Soda blasting really would have been nice but we found ourselves just continuing scraping...

I'll put some photos up soon.

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