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I have old closet doors that look like this:

enter image description here

The lacquer is worn out and aged and they look really bad but there are no visible scratches or dents. I am thinking of replacing the aged hardware and removing the lacquer and applying a brand new layer of the same. I would like to keep the natural look but I would like to get rid of the shiny look.

What are the recommended steps to do this? I have just bought a belt sander and a sheet sander for removing that layer of lacquer.

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    Belt sander is the wrong tool; it can chew through the attractive top layer of the door surface surprisingly fast, even with fine sandpaper. – keshlam Sep 5 '14 at 21:31
  • Idon't know wood very well but based on the weight of these doors I could say that there is room for removing more than what you could remove from a regular door. My biggest fear was that I won't be very precise with such a faster and hevier tool. I thought that because the doors are older and heavier the components are thicker than for the newer doors – MiniMe Sep 6 '14 at 10:25
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    These are almost certainly hollow plywood-faced doors. If so, the face, and in particular the "display" veneer layer, is going to be no thicker than they had to make it. You might want to try refinishing the inside surface of the doors first, so any errors aren't visible. – keshlam Sep 6 '14 at 17:13
  • Those LOOK like lightweight cheap hollow doors. IF they are solid instead, you have a nice canvas to work on. – Bryce Sep 9 '14 at 17:26
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    Even solid core doors can have veneers on them, proceed with caution. Inspect the top, bottom and sides of the door for join lines. – Mazura Oct 1 '14 at 3:39
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If you want to "get rid of the shiny look" why would apply lacquer at all? Shiny is what lacquer does. If the only issue you have with the lacquer is that it's shiny, all you may need to do is rub the doors down with steel wool or Scotchbrite® (generically, non-woven abrasive pads) to take the shine off. But don't apply more lacquer if you don't want it to shine!

I really don't see anything in the picture that appears upsetting if you like wood, but perhaps there is some detail that's lost in a picture, or you just have different taste, which is fine.

If you, in fact, don't want it overly shiny, and you like the look of natural wood, here you go:

Return the belt sander unused to the store unless you have some other job it's actually suited to.

Sand with the pad sander and/or by hand with a sanding block (pick one up when you return the belt sander, or make one from scrap wood) moving primarily in the direction of the wood grain. It should not take very much sanding, and there isn't very much surface veneer (thin layer of wood that looks good) so don't overdo it. Start with 100 grit, possibly with a 100 or 120 grit drywall sanding screen (less prone to clog up when removing finish than regular sandpaper) only go down to 80 if that's really getting tedious - then work up through 100 (if you had to go to 80) 150, 220 or 240 at least - possibly higher, but may not be needed. At each stage, remove all the scratches left by the previous grit of sandpaper, and clean very carefully after each grit so you don't have a loose 100 grit particle scratching things up when you are sanding with 150 or 220.

When all sanded to suit, wipe on some walnut oil, boiled linseed oil, or "tung oil" for a finish that's easy to do and not overly shiny. Wipe on only a thin layer each time, wait several hours or overnight for it to dry, and reapply until you are happy with the finish.

Be careful in handling the rags you apply the finish with - this is the oily rag that can start a fire if wadded up and given a chance - lay them out flat or hang them up or toss them in a bucket of water. Drying oils (those listed, for example) give off some heat as they harden, and in a wadded up rag the insulation of the rag around the outside can allow the middle to get hot enough to smolder.

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The height sounds like it is framed out at 80", a standard height for a sliding door.

Why not get stock 80x48 and 80x72 doors and let the front one overhang the back by a few extra inches?

  • Actually that is the opening size.Sorry for not being too clear on that – MiniMe Sep 6 '14 at 10:15
  • In the image, the track holding the doors appears to be behind the trim. Have you measured the exact actual height of the doors (on the inside of the closet), and compared it to the actual height of the doors available at your big box store? – bib Sep 6 '14 at 11:02
  • Yes , I measured the oppening not the door. The height is ~79" – MiniMe Sep 7 '14 at 3:42
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Personally, I would use a card scraper to remove the finish. These inexpensive tools can remove thin shavings pretty easily, and leave a very smooth surface. The technique is not difficult, but there is a small learning curve. I recommend buying one at a woodworking store where a salesperson can show you how to use it, and maybe practice on a scrap to make sure you are not digging in the corners. These tools could remove the finish on one of those doors in just a few minutes.

Before scraping, I would remove the doors from the frame and lay them flat on some sawhorses so it is easy to work on them, and remove any hardware that is in the way (it looks like just the pull handle)

After all that, you can do whatever you want for finish and hardware, mounting mirrors, etc. I like wiping on a couple coats of polyurethane thinned with mineral spirits for a near-foolproof clear coat, but there are myriad ways to skin that cat.

Good luck!

EDIT to add: Here is an entry from my blog illustrating the use of card scrapers to remove finish and prepare the surface for more finish. In that case, I only removed finish in the areas where the surface needed smoothing: enter image description here

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