Refinishing question


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I recently got an old chest of drawers off of my aunt. The finish is old and I was thinking of stripping it off and restaining it (or painting it - I like the colors you get from milk paint). The drawer fronts have this....interesting finish that is basically 3D at this point. I've been told it's called an "alligator finish" and is what happens when the lacquer(?) they used back in the 20's and 30's gets repeatedly exposed to cycles of heat and humidity. Is that the case, or would someone have finished it this way on purpose.

Other than some veneer peeling off the top, the piece seems to be in a good state construction-wise, and is solid with great proportions. 

NB-piece is currently in a dimly lit garage, so the light spot is caused by me photographing the part that was being illuminated with a flashlight.

Alligator finish.jpg

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The fact that you stated that “ you just got this chest of drawers off of your aunt” , makes me question how stable it is. Hope she’s ok. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’d like to see the whole thing in good light. 

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I've seen finish do that before, always as a result of poor storage conditions. Pretty certain that wouldn't be "on purpose".

I would try a mild chemical stripper, maybe even some denatured alcohol. I've always assumed (perhaps incorrectly), that shellac was the finish most likely to react that way.

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7 minutes ago, wdwerker said:

That's why the tax happy #%€£¥#%s make them denature it ! But if you spray shellac & then thinner it sure smells nice in the shop.

IIRC there are people that use pure grain alcohol on their shellac. Best part about mixing it that way is you don't have to worry about VOCs inhaling ethyl alcohol isn't any different than drinking it from my research.

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1 hour ago, Chestnut said:

IIRC there are people that use pure grain alcohol on their shellac. Best part about mixing it that way is you don't have to worry about VOCs inhaling ethyl alcohol isn't any different than drinking it from my research.

And I've read that it's the best kind of solvent for shellac, though a little pricey..

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