Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Science Question For Bagoh20

Background: We're renovating a 1980's townhouse and I'd like to improve on or restore the original staircase banister:

The wooden rail comes off; I plan to sand and refinish it. The white vertical bars are metal and are in turn attached to a long wooden board beneath. I think that wood originally may have been stained as well. Anyways, it will be when I'm finished -- to match the top rail. My question for bags is about refinishing the metal uprights. I'd like to simulate wrought iron. How to do this? My thoughts are removing the framework and taking it someplace to be sandblasted and then electrolytically finished. Alternatively, I could laboriously sand off the paint and then prime and repaint in flat black. Or, there is my old friend methylene chloride.

There are two rails, actually so double the work/cost.

What would bags do?  Mechanical? chemical? electrochemical?

Others are welcome to comment. Sixty?
added: Follow-up post here


Sixty Grit said...

The baluster spacing does not meet current code. That won't be a problem if you can keep the government out of your house, which is not always easy. *Story about what happened last time I sold a house, which is relevant only if you are going to sell yours*

In every project there are budgetary limits. Since you know what you want the final product to look like, finding the path to that point without breaking the budget is the trick.

I would sand the wood, and that in itself is a dusty project, using a random orbit sander connected to a vacuum of some sort. The one I use is all connected so that when I turn on the sander the vacuum cleaner starts automatically. Nice, but not something you will find in most home shops.

So then the issue becomes one of dust containment. Sheet plastic can be used to limit how far the dust can travel. The operator must wear at least a 2 element respirator, I use an overhead system that ducts in fresh air - once again, overkill for one project - but my point is - dust kills.

Wood dust in the air is explosive - a flame front will travel through it very rapidly, so preventing that is something to think about.

Dust is also carcinogenic, depending on the species of wood involved, and some can cause contact dermatitis.

Should those points not be too daunting, move through the sanding grits, starting with nothing coarser than what is needed remove the existing finish - maybe 100 grit. Work your way up to 180 or so, check to make sure that all the scratches are gone, resand as needed.

Place the railing on sawhorses to get it up to a level that does not fatigue the worker - it's going to take some time to git 'r done, so comfort is important.

As for the metal - the less you need to do, the better. Is it possible to apply a finish over the paint and end up with a look you like? Sanding them has all the problems that sanding wood does in terms of toxicity and dust control.

Chemical stripping - that might be the ticket, if you can even use that stuff in the PROC. Most effective products are banned there.

Once you are down to the bare metal you can proceed with the finishing - powder coating, paint, chemical patination, your choice.

Thank goodness I don't have any experience in that area or I might tend to carry on...

One last point - I am serious about the code problem - so long as it met code when built, not a problem, but once messed with, the baluster spacing will have to be brought up to code, so either keep this project a secret or be prepared to bring it up to current code. That issue applies to smoke detectors, decks, changes in roof pitch, plumbing, and on and on - usually the fine is not bad, but having inspectors crawling all over your house is very bad.

Thank goodness you started with a simple project - think of the headaches if you wanted to replace a vanity in a powder room - hoowee!

bagoh20 said...

Not really what I do much. I work mostly in stainless steel, but there are a plethora of videos and articles online showing how to do it in different ways.

I don't recommend sand blasting though, except as a first cleaning step. The finish you are probably looking for needs to be shot-blasted or bead blasted in a wheelabrator to get a more hammered, worn look. Wait, that kinda describes my look. Anyway, like everything else, the answers are online in detail and video. What an amazing time we live in! I can't imagine the future anymore. The present turned out so different than expected. I never heard any descriptions of anything like our current internet in science fiction of the past. Maybe dystopia is not the future after all. Good luck, my friend. Knowing you, it will come out amazingly realistic.

chickelit said...

The baluster spacing does not meet current code.

Stop busting my balusters. Code shmode. Not gonna care.

As for dust, not a problem right now except for what I might inhale. I will wear a prophylactic.

The place is uninhabited. All of the flooring is coming out. I own a nice shopvac. It's fun to make messes.

I'm hammering out a lot of fugly old tile as well. Mess galore.

This isn't my first rodeo. Did I ever tell you about my 9/11 beam?

Bags, I thought you'd have a magic solution. I'm going to get the things apart today and put the wooden rail on saw horses. I have no clue how heavy the balusters are (thanks for the vocabulary word, Sixty). If I can't move them myself, then they aren't going very far.

chickelit said...

A friend suggested losing the balusters and rails altogether and refinishing the the lower rail. That would look very sleek. Not very kid or old person friendly though.

chickelit said...

I wonder what kind of metal the balusters are? Aluminum? Mild steel? There are obvious welds where the pieces meet. I guess I will find out when the petal hits the metal.

chickelit said...

pedal hits the mettle....

AprilApple said...

I like the idea of working with what you've got. The top hand rail is kinda cool.

Removing old paint - tough. Might be easier to re-finish in place. Talk to some local metal experts.

In the meantime - here are some modern baluster ideas.

Is this a fix and flip?

chickelit said...

It's a fix and move into. Not a flipper.

Those are cool photos, April!

AprilApple said...

They are cool photos. Actually, after looking at them, perhaps what you need to change is that bulky handrail?

Sleek and minimal is the trend - also - horizontal instead of vertical. Don't listen to me, I'll only end up costing you money.

AJ Lynch said...


Maybe just get some spray paint cans for the balisters? I used it on some metal patio chairs this summer and it came out just fine.

Some Seppo said...

If money was no object, April's right. The heavy railing is totally out of style and a whole new look is called for. But that also depends on whether you plan to "sleekify" the rest of the house.

It looks like those are no ordinary balusters. It seems you have a full baluster/railing system in steel with the wooden handrail bolted to it, same as it is bolted down to the stair skirt. If so, it's made of cheap structural steel welded together as one big unit.

Instead of stripping, bead blasting, etc the baluster unit I would try some Rustoleum 'hammered finish' spray paint on the existing balusters first.

deborah said...

chick, there are nontoxic wood strippers out there...paint on and scrape off with putty knife. If for me, I would maybe powder coat the bars a rich, bright, but not too bright, orange. My orange sweet spot, where I actually feel an emotion of joy. Is there a color you and the missus particularly love?

Love the retro vibe, have fun!

Sixty Grit said...

I like the cross section of that banister - it is very much an artifact of that time. I would keep it as is, other than refinishing it, as there might come a time when it will become an interesting historical part of the fabric of that house.

I would bet that the metal is mild steel - it is inexpensive, easy to fabricate and also in keeping with the zeitgeist of when that house was built.

You can get attachments that will allow you to readily sand the finger grooves on the wood - I hadn't seen those when I commented this morning. Using power to sand is the only way to fly when you have that many feet of railing to sand.

So work on the baluster and the banister, avoid the barrister, but keep your baristas close.

Trump fan said...

Probably cheaper n faster to just replace the railings

Some Seppo said...

Just faster.

chickelit said...

Thanks for all the suggestions! I like Seppo's suggestion of "hammered finish" rustoleum. The whole thing looks cool with the balusters off.

Sixty, I may need your eye for identifying wood types. The railing is nothing I recognize from high school shop class. I'll post some photos later tonight.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Doing a matching stain on the railing and the wooden portion that is now painted may be tricky because the woods may be completely different types or grains. You can try and if it doesn't match exactly it may work out because the woods are not juxtaposed.

However, if it isn't acceptable match, I would paint the bottom where the soon to be wrought iron looking railings are inserted a matching or coordinating color. Perhaps a deep charcoal or other dark grey tone.

AprilApple said...

How heavy were they?

Sixty Grit said...

My guess is that they weigh 530 kilograms per cubic meter, or, roughly 33 pounds per cubic foot.

That means it has a specific gravity of what, .53? Help me out here, CL - you are the science guy.

AprilApple said...

"heavy, man" , or "not that bad" would suffice.

chickelit said...

AprilApple said...How heavy were they?

Heavy, but not too heavy.

chickelit said...

I wrote a nice longish post with photos, based on email exchanges I had with Sixty Grit today. There isn't time to publish it tonight so I will post it first thing in the morning.