I was so reluctant to start this part of the project that I took about a four week hiatus between finishing the table top and starting the pedestal. My reluctance was well-founded. The grooves and rounded feet of the pedestal made it 5x more difficult to strip than the relative ease of the tabletop (including the beveled edge and skirt). After letting the gel stripper sit for 25 minutes (Achievement Unlocked: Superhuman Patience), I used my flat-bladed putty knife on the flat planes and 3M Scotch-Brite abrasive pads to clean around the contours. The latter technique takes some elbow grease and, at least initially, the paint and primer smears into a scary, gray sludge that spreads everywhere and makes you think your work is ruined. As you keep scrubbing, though, the stripper/paint/primer mixture starts to bead up and fall off.
Here are pictures from 3 hours (2 rounds of stripping) and 6 hours (3.5 rounds of stripping):
What’s wrong with the picture at right? I’m not wearing safety goggles. I have gotten stripper on just about every limb at some point or another, but it never occurred to me to worry that it might get thrown into my eyes. Unfortunately, this happened over the weekend while I was vigorously dabbing stripper into the rings of the pedestal. Once I realized what had happened (thoughts: “oh wow that’s cold … maybe it’s not going to hurt … oh NO, IT DOES! IT DOES!!”), I dashed inside the house and approximated a chemistry class-style eyewash. My eyeball felt bruised, it hurt to blink, and my eyelid peeled three days later. So yeah, if you do this at home, be sure to wear goggles!
After mostly recovered from my eye injury, I used our electric sander on the planes (and some of the curves) of the table, which helped remove most of the residual grey primer. I tried unsuccessfully to manually clean the details with folded sand paper. A friend suggested using a Dremel which I luckily had on hand. I used an EZ471SA abrasive brush from Dremel’s Polishing / Sanding kit to clean between the rings. I knew right away it was worth the investment (the kit was $21 at Home Depot), because I couldn’t have reached that paint with sand paper, and there was no way I was could have stripped those trouble areas without gouging the wood with my putty knife. I also recommend using safety goggles for this part, since the resulting debris is moving fast enough to hurt your eyes.
Once I was satisfied with the paint removal from the detail, I noticed that I lot of stripper had coagulated between the legs of the table and the pedestal. I was worried this might interfere with painting so decided to remove them. The electric sander removed most of the gunk I was concerned about.
I then used a combination of manual labor and my electric sander with 120-grit finishing sandpaper all over the pedestal’s trunk, its feet, and the table top and leaves. I used a brush on all the table parts to loosen and remove as much sawdust as I could. At this point, I shook out my tarp and flipped it over to minimize “recontamination” from sawdust and stripper gobs. I wiped down all the pieces with abrasive pads dipped in mineral spirits to remove any residual dust. I was now ready for the fun part of the project: staining and painting.