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Removal and hanging of varnished papers.
Correct use and care of brushes.
Good tools mean better work.

By Ray Lewhite.

I referred briefly in an earlier article to the removal and hanging of varnished wallpaper.
The big decorating firms use a steam stripping machine for the removal of varnished and other papers which would otherwise be difficult to get off.
The householder or decorator can purchase a electric stripper from one of the big hardware outlets, at a reasonable cost. If you you do not have one of these there is other means of which there are several.
In general it means the varnish must be removed to enable the water to penetrate into and thoroughly soak the paper, the varnished surface scored in order to let water through.
If the paper has had several coats of varnish applied to it over the course of many years (this does happen particularly in a hall or staircase dado) I advise using a spirituous type of varnish remover preferably containing wax. This serves a dual purpose of preventing the liquid from running down the paper and damaging the skirting and also retards the evaporation of this volatile solvent.
As the paint remover softens the varnish so it is removed with a stripping knife. Further applications of the solvent may be required before it is removed sufficiently to allow hot water to penetrate into the paper enabling final removal by the stripping knife.

Paste and Sugar Soap

Removal of Varnished Papers
It is also possible to soften the varnish by making up a stiff paste, to which a strong solution of sugar soap is added. The paste holds to the surface whilst the sugar soap is softening the varnish. Care must be taken with this method because the alkaline nature of the sugar soap may get into the plaster walls and subsequently discolor any further paper being applied.
It will be essential thoroughly to wash the walls, adding up to 15 per cent vinegar to the water, thus helping to neutralize any alkaline solution that may have reached the plaster walls.
In many cases neither of these methods is necessary and it will be sufficient to score the surface by means of coarse glass paper, wire brush or a hacksaw blade conveniently fitted into a suitable handle. By this means hot water can penetrate through to soften the back of the paper, allowing it to be removed by the stripping knife.
When the paper has eventually been removed, the walls must be well washed to get rid of old paste, size and fragments of paper that may have escaped the stripping knife.
Whilst still wet, all holes and cracks must be filled in ; also pay attention to any blemishes made by the hacksaw blade. The cellulose type of filler can be used for all cracks, etc. Make doubly sure the surface is level and no indentations are left, as the varnish paper will emphasize any defects.
Lightly rub down with glasspaper to remove any nibs from the wall.

Hanging

Removal of Varnished Papers
Various patterned and coloured wallpapers are obtainable which are varnished (washable) ready for hanging. The procedure of pasting and hanging is the same as that for the ordinary wallpapers except for a minor point or two.
First the paste should be of a medium consistency. Edges are inclined to curl immediately, after pasting and care must be taken in folding the lengths so as not to crack the varnish by deliberately making creases at the folds. Soak for a minute or two before hanging, using a clean brush when hanging the paper.
Should a few blisters appear after hanging, it usually means a longer soaking time is required or possibly the paste is a little too thin and requires thickening.
It is important to use a joint roller to seal the edges of the paper to the wall for should moisture collect on the paper it may find a way between the joins and so get to the back of the paper. This only will occur where there is an excess of steam such as in a bathroom.
I have been asked how to overcome this and from tests I have carried out, I have been successful by carefully applying a coat of size, with a brush from a childrens paintbox, and wiping off the surplus from the varnished paper. When dry, I apply with the same brush, a coat of wallpaper varnish.

There are a number of people who prefer to hang a suitable paper and varnish it themselves. These wallpapers are usually printed in oil colours. However, whatever paper is selected, the colours must be fixed sufficiently to allow a coat of size to be applied over the face of the paper without disturbing them. A simple test to prove this is to wet a little piece and rub a finger over it. Should the colours rub up, the paper is not suitable for varnishing.

Removal of Varnished Papers
Once again the preparation of the walls must be perfect and care must be taken to ensure that the edges of the wallpaper are firmly sealed to the wall. When the wallpaper has dried, check for any loose edges and re-paste and fix them. Next proceed to give the paper a coat of size, but a few words about this first.
The sizing process requires more attention than it usually gets when being applied to the walls.
A coat of size applied too strong may cause cracks to develop on the size film and these will be seen in the varnish and may even eventually cause cracking of the varnish. The temperature of the size must be considered and adjusted according to the nature of the wallpaper. In some papers the colours may be so lightly bound that a hot size will disturb them.
I prefer a weak to medium strength size, allowed to cool before use ( but still capable of being applied with a brush). The whole of the wallpaper is given two coats of size, allowing one to dry before the second application.
Avoid frothing by being unhurried and make sure it is covered completely, hence the purpose of applying two coats of size as this minimises the risk. Any parts missed will allow the varnish to strike through and so cause oil discolouration.

The size must be perfectly dry before applying the varnish, or blooming will occur, i.e., a slight milky appearance which will show particularly on dark coloured paper.
Remember to wipe of all size from paintwork whilst it is still wet.
There are two types of varnish available - a crystal paper varnish and a pale-oil varnish, the latter is often preferred by decorators because of its flexibility and greater resistance to wear. The crystal varnish is a spirit varnish which tends to become brittle after a time and liable to crack and so allow moisture to penetrate.
On no account use an ordinary oak varnish as this will tend to darken the paper. Also remember the area to be varnished is greater than usually covered and edges are not so easy to keep alive (i.e. from drying).
When applying varnish keep windows and doors closed and avoid any current of cold air striking the wet varnish or dulling of the gloss may occur. This will also occur if a bathroom is used before the varnish has hardened right through. This takes about three days.

CORRECT USE AND CARE OF BRUSHES

Removal of Varnished Papers
It is an astonishing fact, based upon my long experience in the trade, that the most ill-used item in the decorators equipment is the paint brush. Maybe it's because brushes are so reasonably priced to-day that many purchases simply cannot be bothered to take care of them, which means that the number of bone hard brushes found in dustbins in the spring is no-bodys business!
You'd think that the brush makers would be happy with this but in fact the opposite is true. For example, Hamiltons of Wealdstone, who've been making brushes for nearly 200 years, issue this information and it is so useful to the amateur that I am passing it on again. It really is good advice.

Whatever the quality of the brush, it will give better service if it is properly used and is cared for. Misuse and neglect may halve the working life of a brush, and if the user does not get the most out of his brush he does not get the value for his money. A good brush should give service until the bristles are worn away by use. Loose hairs should not be found in a brush, but, to make sure, 'flirt' or flick the brush before use, bending the hairs to and fro so as to shake out loose hairs if there are any.
Soak tied brushes, but do not soak rubber set brushes before use. This is necessary with tied brushes, for the binding is stretched by the expansion of the bristle and handle when first wetted, and becomes loose every time the brush is dried. For rubber set brushes soaking is unnecessary and may be harmful.

Keep your brushes clean when not in use, especially at the root of the bristle, where material tends to accumulate and harden even while the brush is being worked. It must be cleaned out before it hardens.
Dry your brush before putting it away. If hair is allowed to remain damp (and especially if it is shut away in a drawer or cupboard) mildew sets in, usually in the centre of the brush. There is no cure for mildew once it has attacked a brush : the hairs rot and break off and the brush becomes useless.
Hang up your brush to dry : don't cramp the hair by letting it take the weight of the brush.
Don't use, or wash, hair in strong alkaline solutions. Soda or very alkaline soap will take the life out of it, so that it has no springiness and may become so brittle that the hairs break away and the brush is of no more use.
Fibre will withstand cold alkaline solutions far better than hair, though it is less resistent to acids. Don't dissolve out the cement from your brush. Rubber set brushes can be washed in almost any solvent without affecting the cement. But oil will dissolve pitch or rosin cement, methylated spirits will dissolve shellac cement (such as in non-rubber set stipplers). Don't store pitch-set brushes with naphthalene : it rots the pitch. Don't leave a glue brush in the glue pot when not in use.

Storing Over Night

Removal of Varnished Papers
Brushes which have used in paint may best be kept in a mixture of raw linseed oil and white spirit. Keep out the moth. Moths will lay eggs among the soft tops of the bristles on which the grubs immediately feed when they hatch out. Camphor, naphthalene etc. will help but the only sure protection for a new brush which is not used for some time is to brush the ends of the bristles regularly and thus shake out any moth eggs.
To clean a brush first dissolve out the material with a suitable solvent. Clean right up to the ferrule. Next wash away the solvent with weak soap and water. Then thoroughly rinse and hang up to dry in the open. Stipplers should always be cleaned immediately after use, without soaking the wood and after rinsing should be beaten with a dry cloth to make the airs separate and dry quickly. When washing such brushes as dusters or paper hanging brushes which are set in pitch, do not wet the stock or the setting more than can be avoided.

Apart from the care of brushes how many people use them correctly? I know that each painter is a law unto himself but a good painter never uses brushes in a way the manufacturers never intended. You'll see what i mean when you look at the sketches based upon pictures supplied by the same firm. When you look at them you'll appreciate that it really is a matter of common sense, isn't it? One last point. A good brush gets better with correct use. Treated on the lines described it will last for years until it becomes another 'old faithful' with which you are loath to part.

Good Tools Mean Better Work

Removal of Varnished Papers
In the past I have dealt with different aspects of paper hanging but, so far, have mentioned very little about the tools to do a first-class job.
Many of you may have improvised a pasting table, hanging brush and other tools, probably causing yourself a certain ammount of difficulty and leading to an unsatisfactory finish. The purpose of this article is to help you in the making or selection of equipment>

Paste board and trestles

Removal of Varnished Papers
Light weight folding paste boards can be purchased at almost any builders supply shop such as Wickes, Brewers, or Homebase. A must for every decorator cheap at around £20, With a little looking after sturdy enough to last for years.

Tools

Removal of Varnished Papers
The handyman often does an inferior job because of the poor quality of his tools. The professional uses only the best but, for the handyman, something between the cheapest and the dearest will suffice.
First the pasting brush, which incidentally may be used for emulsion work. Although these can cost £20-£30 or more do not pay less than about £10 for a flat brush 6in. wide with plenty of bristle. Cheap brushes have insufficient bristles and hold very little material, consequently if used for painting a ceiling, the emulsion usually runs down the handle.
Brushes should always be well washed after use and hung in a cool place to dry. Well looked after the will last for years.
A hanging brush for brushing out the paper can cost again £20-£30 or more but one at about half this price will be satisfactory for most papers, the exceptions being Anaglypta and other heavy embossed types - these will require a heavy brush.
If you have not a sufficiently large pair of scissors, buy a stainless steel pair with pointed tips, about 12in. long they are very sharp and easily cut all papers and fabrics cost about £10.
A wooden or plastic seam roller is a useful tool and will cost about £3 to £5. When using it do not roll the joints immediately the paper is hung or paste will be squeezed out and transferred to the surface. Wait some ten minutes, by then the paste will have become partly dry. Do not use a roller on heavy embossed paper, you may tend to flatten the relief.
A plumb line and bob can be bought cheaply or improvised by using a suitable weight on a length of twine. It is an essential tool for ensuring that the paper is hung upright. Most paper hangers use a spirit level which can be bought for around a fiver.
Finally a tape measure as long as possible and a sponge for cleaning skirtings and paintwork


Pastes

Removal of Varnished Papers
Many varieties of paste are on sale today : select one most suitable for the paper being hung as advised by your dealer. The consistency of all pastes is based on the principle that the thicker the paper the thicker the consistency of the paste. Also the thicker the paper the longer it requires to soak before hanging. This principal can be applied to all wallpapers with the exception of a few and these carry labels giving special instructions.
Some paper hangers prefer the cellulose pastes which have become very popular. They are particularly recommended for the beginner as any paste getting on the pattern side of the paper dries out without leaving a stain. Ordinary paste is liable to show if this happens.
Cellulose pastes have the property of soaking more into the paper due to there greater water content. There are also special prepared pastes for heavy papers such as Anaglypta.
One small tip that can make the job easier and cleaner. Fix a string or wire across the top of the paste bucket for holding the brush and for wiping off surplus paste.


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