Still in the midst of stripping my stairs, I’m trying not to use any smelly, highly dangerous chemicals , nothing that requires a mask or moving the cats out for the duration (good thing, too, as it’s going on month four in the project). But, I ran into a lot of trouble when, under multiple layers of paint, I uncovered a layer or two of old mastic. The stripper I’m using is purported to remove up to 32 layers of paint with one application , and it is effective against the paint. Against the mastic…not so much.
First I tried sanding for about a half-hour on one tread. This kicked up an astounding amount of baby-poop-colored dust, which settled all over the hallway – even on the 12′ ceilings (apparently I need to invest in a palm sander with better dust collection). Yet a thick layer of the mastic remained on the tread. I thought I’ve have to cave and resort to the flammable-solvent-filled stinky stuff. But no. After having to listen to my extended lament, Editor Christopher Schwarz handed me the Benchcrafted Skraper.
This $34 tool is tipped with a 1/8″-thick bar of solid carbide with a 90Ã?Â° cutting angle; unlike the others scrapers in my extensive collection (I tend to lose them, buy another, then find an older one…I now have six hardware-store scrapers), it doesn’t flex at all in use, so once I found the right angle at which to hold it, there were no adjustments to be made. The tip is honed to razor sharpness on eight edges, and the bar can be flipped over as necessary to use the fresh long edge. But after three stairs worth of use, I’m still using the edge with which I began. Plus, it can be resharpened. I also like the angle of the handle, which allows for zero-clearance use in corners, such as where the treads meet the risers.
It took me about an hour to completely remove the patches of mastic from three stairs. At 1-1/4″ wide, this tool clearly wasn’t intended for use on large areas; were a wider version available, I’d buy it in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. But, it did the job far better than anything else I’ve tried, and with far less mess. The detritus piled up on the tread, not on the ceiling (and walls, and floor and me), there were no chemicals involved and I could listen to my favorite iTunes playlist while I worked. Still, I’m not looking forward to the remaining stairs. And unfortunately, there’s still a lot of sanding ahead to prepare for finishing. For that portion of the project I have another tool: my checkbook.
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