Stripping-Tank Basics

Quick advice on flow-over tanks and dip tanks for stripping cabinet doors. January 9, 2007

I refinish a great deal of kitchens and it's getting to be bothersome to have to strip the doors by hand. I was wondering what you are using as far as stripping tanks and strippers. I was told that a homemade box made from melamine with a drain hole on the bottom will do the trick. I basically strip and refinish the kitchen without the doors in 3 days, so I was figuring that if during those 3 days I can have the doors soaking in the stripping tank, then it would take me one day to stain and finish, for a total of 5 days for the whole project.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor K:
I can't see melamine holding up at all well. I'd use galvanized or stainless steel. It sounds like you want to dump the doors in the stripper and come back and get them in 3 days? If so, you'll have a mess of warped, delaminated, unglued wood... Tank stripping or tray stripping still takes work and the doors will need to dry out before finishing.

From contributor R:
I made a tank out of melamine and it worked out great. I used yellow glue and a ship load of grabber screws. Used a screw about every few inches. I did have a few drips and drops here and there, but I think what really prevented it from leaking is that the acetone I used as a wash swelled everything and made a tight joint. My tank measured 18" deep by 3' wide and 6' long. I set it on sawhorses, and poured in 10 gallons. When done stripping, I opened the drain and filtered the used stripper back into the 5'er. I used acetone for cleaning.

From contributor I:
Just buy out new doors and drawer fronts. That way you only have to strip face frames and end panels.

From contributor D:
Find a refinishing business and sub-out the stripping of doors, drawers and any other loose parts to them. Most are set up to run volume of stripping and can do this for a reasonable cost. It doesn't pay trying to do volume stripping without proper ventilation and equipment. Unless you do volume stripping, it doesn't pay to invest in the equipment. Jobbing it out controls your cost and frees your time up for other tasks. If you do want to set up your own system, look to Benco Sales or Besway - long established suppliers in this area.

New doors and drawers is certainly an option, but sometimes people have good doors they want to keep, and also new doors have to receive new hinges and be properly hung. Using existing doors avoids that. Bottom line, new doors and drawers is a higher cost option. Fine if they're willing to pay, but there is good margin to be made refinishing if you can deal with the stripping issue.

From contributor J:
Don't dip! Talk to Bees-Way about a Flow-Over pump system. It runs on air and works great. A 4'x8' tank should cost about $450 and be well worth the money. For the tank, try Products Unlimited out of Milwaukee. Stripping should be your biggest money maker if you're doing it correctly. Always use the best stripper you can buy.

From contributor S:
I am no longer in the business. However, I did have a stripping business in the past and I do not believe things have changed that much since I was closed down. My operation had two dip tanks and two flow-over trays. The flow-over trays were where we used methylene chloride strippers.

The dip tanks were basically lye baths. They consisted of a stainless steel box with a radiator inside (for heat) and water with a strong lye solution added. The tank also had a drain which went directly into the sewer system. After all, what is Draino, other than lye? There are also packets which would boost the strength of the lye to lengthen its usability. It seems to me using a MC stripper in a dip tank would run into a lot of money. Not only for the expense of the chemicals, but for the cost of disposal of the sludge.

One last note; putting cabinet doors into a liquid bath and leaving them for 3 days would be a very risky endeavor. Just because a door looks like wood does not necessarily mean it is (trust me). Get a flow-over tray and a chemical pump, check out hood products, and you'll be in business.