Having gotten the living room of my new (old) house to the point where I can sit in it without itching to paint something, I’m now tearing into the kitchen — a much bigger, more serious job. And a job on which I could use some advice from you more experienced wood-workers.
Although the house is more than 100 years old, it had its last remodel somewhere in the late 1950s. Since then, all anybody has done is paint over the 50s stuff. I’ve decided to keep the 50s look, partly because it makes me laugh and partly because it’s the least expensive option, especially in the kitchen, which is seriously large (37 cabinets and drawers).
So … I’m hoping to strip all the cabinets back to bare wood, then varnish them. Here’s the start I got on the job this weekend:
And here’s where I could use some advice. I’ve got two sanders: a belt sander for the rough work and an orbital sander for the finishing. The belt sander (just by the nature of the beast, as far as I can tell) leaves occasional small gouges and scrapes in the surface. I’ve been counting on the orbital sander to take those marks out. But so far, no luck. I’ve tried a couple of different combinations of grit for the two sanders but haven’t come up yet with a combo that minimizes the marks from the belt sander and maximizes the ability of the orbital sander to take them out.
So first question: what are the ideal grits and best techniques to get those cabinets really smooth?
And second question: What’s the best way to sand the frames? The belt sander works fine in some areas, but please don’t tell me (or do tell, if it’s the truth) that I’ll have to hand sand in all the tricky little areas like up under the counter edge and in the corners).
Third question: Both the doors and frames have quite a bit of surface damage — mostly water stains and burns, but also a few gouges that somebody appears to have tried to fill with … well, it looks like construction-grade bubble-gum to me, but I suppose it’s some sort of spackle. How to I get that goo out of the gouges, and what do I replace it with if I want the cabinets to be just varnished wood? If I get wood filler, should it be the same color as the bare wood? Or more like the color I expect the wood to be after varnishing?
And final question: Some of the surface damage is in really tricky spots, as in the picture below. That dark water stain would come right out if I could take the belt sander to it. But in that spot? Not possible. What’s the best way to get rid of surface damage in tight spots? Should I try wood bleach? Or do I just have to get in there with sand paper and elbow-grease it?
Thanks for the help, you guys who are good at this sort of thing. And thanks for being patient, you who aren’t interested in project stuff.
Once I put the finishing touches on these two doors and their frames, it’ll be two down and only 35 to go …