Caked on in removal - wood border

I recently received a large set of stamped wood borders. Since they’re stamped the printing face doesn’t protrude much above the counter. For most of the pieces, ink is so thoroughly caked in that it prints more like solid rule than border.

I’ve tried scraping but it’s way too much to do with precision. So I know I have to do something chemical to remove it, and I’m resigned to the fact I’ll have to reapply a lacquer / finish. I’m seeing posts recommending lacquer thinner for removal. Any other ideas? Would love something that could pieces could soak in, then wipe off.


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I have had success with metal type using paint remover, which is strongly alkaline and can burn skin, but is widely used on wood furniture to remove old finishes. A product like Strypeze can be used with a brush for application and a bristle scrub brush to gently work it into the crevices. On some woods it tends to raise the plank grain a bit but some wood type is end-grain, which would be much less affected. Working on a block of type locked up in a chase, I applied it, let it work for several minutes, then went over the type face with a toothbrush, then wiped the mess off with a damp rag and rinsed and dried the type. Clean as a whistle afterwards.


Did I read that correctly? You tried to scrape a typographic surface?! Probably contra-indicated.

My day job is in sales of firearms. I cringe when I hear someone tell me how he uses sandpaper to strip the finish off of a gun stock. Almost any kind of chemical stripper is a better idea. Paint and ink are close cousins chemically. Gloves? Yes! Toothbrush? Yes. Paint scraper? Not a good plan. Also avoid wire brushes and even steel wool.

I recall reading somewhere that aggressive stripping can damage wood type as it’ll chew out all the shellac. That said, it’s probably better than scraping at it (goodness!). I’d probably try and gently wash out the stripper at the end and then re-shellac the type or it’ll might start absorbing ink and cleaner.

I bought some wood type off ebay once which looked fine but when I received it I realised that it had been hideously cleaned and the cleaner had acted like a peroxide to the type and so it was both bleached and a little furry feeling - not a shiny surface any more.

So maybe, get a test piece, clean 1/2 of it, see how it works out then clean the other 1/2 with a new method if you need to.

Thanks all for your thoughts.

Bob - I think I’m going to try your method. The borders are end grain - and even if the grain is slightly raised they cannot print worse than they do now. I also like the idea of locking it into a chase to keep it in place.

And I’m realizing my original post was vague. I did scrape, but only in the non printing areas and grooves to try to loosen the ink. No luck. We’ve got a lot of great old type and would similarly cringe to someone trying to clean the whole surface by scraping…

When I get around to it, will take and post before and after pictures.