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Old 11-18-2016, 04:41 PM   #1
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heat gun versus stripper

The time has come to do some work on the outside of my old boat, since the varnish looks like something which the cat drug in and the kittens refused. Lots of old curling varnish to get up, and I am wondering whether to use some stripper or a heat gun. Any advice will be welcome from those of you who have more experience with it than I do (which probably includes almost everyone).
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Old 11-18-2016, 04:49 PM   #2
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Use neither I have found the best way to remove varnish on wood is with a radiant heat paint remover .You have greater control of head and it covers a larger area so it makes for a faster job


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Old 11-18-2016, 05:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwnall View Post
The time has come to do some work on the outside of my old boat, since the varnish looks like something which the cat drug in and the kittens refused. Lots of old curling varnish to get up, and I am wondering whether to use some stripper or a heat gun. Any advice will be welcome from those of you who have more experience with it than I do (which probably includes almost everyone).
If the varnish is very old and dried out a heat gun doesn't work that well.
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Old 11-18-2016, 05:43 PM   #4
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I find the heat gun (im-)perfectly usable. Where the varnish is really bad, it scrapes right off. I prefer using narrow, 1" scrapers so that more force can be applied to the width of the scraper. I sharpen the scrapers with a file (overboard so that the steel chips do not end up on-board to rust and discolor the boat).

Practice is required so that adjacent surfaces are not damaged; gelcoat and paint are also softened by heat. A modicum of coordination, which I lack, and ambidexterity, which I also lack, is required to operate the heat gun and the scraper most usefully. You have to use the heat and the scraper concurrently and: not overheat the wood, not overheat the scraper handle (which will melt), nor overheat your scraper hand.

I would not want the mess of chemical remover and the risk of its damaging adjacent surfaces.
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Old 11-18-2016, 05:47 PM   #5
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Greetings,
Mr. jw. The problem with either a heat gun or stripper is in some cases the heat or the stripper ends up where you don't want it. Lack of control IOW. We've tried strippers, heat guns, torches (gotta be REALLY careful) and in the end have found sharp scrapers to be the best for us.

An assortment (widths and profiles) of scrapers and a good file is my suggestion. I'm sure others will chime in and suggest carbide scrapers and they are very good until you have to sharpen them. Can't be done without specialized grinder stones.






That being said, you can still use chemical strippers in those tricky hard to reach places but bulk removal is best with a scraper IMHO.
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Old 11-18-2016, 06:17 PM   #6
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I have used a heat gun and a scraper on old varnish and it worked pretty well. I think that the eco friendly strippers like the citrus based ones wouldn't work well on old, sun baked varnish.

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Old 11-18-2016, 06:51 PM   #7
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Heat gun might work better but I think the stripper might be more fun to watch.

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Old 11-18-2016, 08:24 PM   #8
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The PO just kept on adding layers of varnish, which I decided to remove. Pic shows thickness. It came off quite readily with heat gun and a thick-bladed scraper.

Subsequently I needed to remove Cetol, which was a big failure particularly on curved surfaces in the local climate. I think its most redeeming feature is ease of removal! A combination of scraper such as shown above by RTF and some sanding for the difficult areas. But where possible I just used a finishing sander.

I suggest trying a number of techniques to see what works easiest for you given the type and condition of varnish you are dealing with.
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Old 11-18-2016, 10:13 PM   #9
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I much prefer the tungsten carbide scraper w the very slightly curved cutting/scraping edge. Gouging w the sharp corners is almost imposible. A big plus. And the blades are very hard to wear out. Never need sharpening. I'll never go back to carbon steel.
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Old 11-19-2016, 01:22 AM   #10
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Im with OC on this, no question.
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Old 11-19-2016, 07:25 AM   #11
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Once you get the knack of it, a heat gun and scraper is MUCH faster than stripper.
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Old 11-19-2016, 10:00 AM   #12
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I found a heat gun and scraper to be effective, but you must keep the gun moving or you can scorch the wood. Highest setting, right onto the rail, followed by a scraper. Keep it moving!
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