Monday, October 9, 2006

Packing Heat

I spent my Monday of fall break on the business end of a heat gun, which is one of the most useful, most economical, and least pleasant of the do-it-yourselfer's historic preservation tools.

I can't tell you how many hours I've logged with a heat gun in my left hand, a 5-in-1 glazier's knife in my right, and a respirator on my face, slowly scraping off 90 years of other people's accumulated taste in window and door casing colors. But it's a lot.

The gun works best when the woodwork was originally varnished, because the heat gun softens the paint but boils the varnish, and often great fillets of paint will slip off like one of those masks from a Mission Impossible agent.

But it still leaves a lot of paint gunk on the wood, and it takes more sanding and priming to achieve the magic transformation:

I take a lot of precautions to avoid lead contamination. I use a window fan and plastic sheeting to make sure that the fumes and dust don't spread to to other rooms of the house, and sweep and mop up afterwards to avoid spreading any dust.

It's a lot of work, and even then, the woodwork doesn't look new.

But every little nick and divot is an artifact of the people who lived here before I did. I like living with them.


Anonymous said...

Bravo. And welcome back.

David Wharton said...

Thanks, Lex.

justin smith said...

I bought one of these guys ( and it is in transit. I'll let you know how it works on the house. Or better yet, you'll get to see. I'm going to try to strip the whole house.

justin smith