Speedheater Learning Curve

by Josh on February 6, 2006 · 5 comments

in Bedroom,Projects

After an hour or two stripping paint with the Speedheater/Silent Paint Remover/SPR, I still have a lot to learn. The tool comes with a many pages of instructions and documentation, but it is not enough to answer all my questions.

I started with the simplest, least conspicuous piece of painted wood I could find in the south upstairs bedroom: the inside of the closet door. After pulling the hinge pins and setting the door on sawhorses, I gathered my tools and safety gear and got to work.

door before stripping

In addition to the Speedheater, I used a flat carbide pull scraper, a profile pull scraper, a spraybottle with water to reduce paint dust, gloves, glasses, and a cartridge-type respirator.

The Speedheater directions say to heat the surface for 20-30 seconds before scraping and to heat only as long as necessary for the paint to soften. However, I found that the only way I could get most of the paint to come off was to leave the Speedheater on for at least 30 seconds, until the paint surface had completely blistered. By this point some of the paint was smoking and stinking terribly. (I couldn’t smell anything with my respirator on, but Ms. Bungalow popped her head into the room to tell me I was stinking up the house.) Once the paint had blistered, I sprayed it with water and scraped the paint off. The top layer came up pretty consistently, but a base coat of paint or primer has stayed on tenaciously.

door after some stripping

The instructions for the Speedheater warn against heating the paint to the point of smoking and stinking, but I found this was the only way I was getting good results with my scraper. The instructions also mention that an 80/20 mixture of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits could be applied before heating and scraping to “reconstitute” very old paint that had completely dried out. I may have to try that approach to see if it makes a difference. It does not appear that this door was ever stained and varnished and that could be a factor in the stripping, too.

So far, I’m not getting the easy, effective results I was lead to expect from the Speedheater, but I assume this is my fault, not the tool’s. If you own a Speedheater, or if you have used one, what step am I missing? Is there a technique you have used to get the best results from your Speedheater? Are smoking and stinking unavoidable in heat-based paint removal– and if so, how do you set up the workspace to manage these issues?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg February 6, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Just like stripping with a heat gun – you get varying results depending on what kind of paint and how many layers there are, and whether the wood had been shellaced or varnished before the first coat of paint.
I get the best results on wood that has multiple layers of paint over shellac, and the worst results on wood that has a single coat or two of latex paint directly on wood.
I also find I need to heat the paint for longer than 30 seconds, and smoking and stinking are inevitable.

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Kristin February 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

Same as Greg, I haven’t used a Speedheater, but with my heat gun I do have to hold it on the paint until it is fully blistered. It does stink. I suggest doing it outside or opening a window and setting up a fan to blow the stank toward the window. That’s what I did this summer. Haven’t done much stripping in the winter because it’s too cold to venture out from under my blanket on the couch.

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Josh February 7, 2006 at 4:57 pm

That’s helpful feedback– thanks! I think I will move my operation to the garage where an open door for smoke ventilation won’t swell my heating bill.

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Chris April 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm

There are very few reviews of this device. At $400 a pop, it seems that I might just stick with chemicals. I have a victorian to strip, and with Lead containment, this seemed reasonable. No magic bullet I suppose. Josh, any other experiences with this tool?

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Josh May 20, 2010 at 7:42 am

Chris, I’ve had the tool set aside lately while I work on other projects. Stripping a victorian exclusively with chemicals will be an expensive proposition– much more than the cost of the Speedheater. I think the tool works most efficiently on clapboard siding so you might want to use chemicals on all those victorian details and use something like the Speedheater or Paint Shaver on the siding. As for lead containment, I’d refer to the EPA for safe practices to follow whatever stripping method you choose.

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