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Stripping old varnish on mahogany wood - Struggling to get perfect result

Hi there, done room after room of paint stripping in our rennovation but struggling get old varnish off a mahogany fireplace we have. The worst comes off but is still a miserable ingrained dark stain/varnish.

Have tried the nitromorse route…so, so result. Have used a carbon tungsten stripper, also ok. But still the result looks poor.

I don’t want it dipped ideally as it tends open up the joints and suchlike. Read about the Fluxaf product Russ mentioned in his article but not sure how applicable it is for this application. Maybe it’s the perfect solution.

The mantle itself is not so complicated shape…straight flat sides, curved front elevation, then straight insets.

Would be grateful as always to move from amateur efforts to professional ones. Look forward to hearing some ideas. All the best


I spoke to Willem the Cook, at @vliegenthart who knows a thing or two about paint strippers and treating mahogany.

Fluxaf Super will stay wet for longer than the faster acting strippers, and soften the stain.

Remove with a stiff brush and warm water .

When dry, clean again with pro clean

Mahogany is a popular timber in the boat world, and Lacq yacht varnish is a traditional cooked high gloss yacht varnish, made to the same level of quality as Epifanes i.e. the best. Build up the layers and you should have the sheen of all sheens.

If you decide to go a different route with finishes, avoid any solvent based varnish that looks purple in the tin, as they dry fast and won’t penetrate.


I just published a run down of a job @fxdecor completed in the summer using the Fluxaf Super on oak. Not mahogany, but gives you an idea of how it works, contained.

and washed down

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Hi Andy…good to hear from you.

As if there was ever any doubt but will be following your advice and ordering the necessary right now. So far in terms of advice and materials since I joined TP, it’s been a 100% track record so no need to doubt the advice given.

The rest of the place is American Oak and was done with a Ronseal light Oak poly varnish a few years ago after a very thorough strip back and prep. It’s actually quite easy to remove but I’m going to try the Fluxaf on that as well. I’m stripping a large hall, stairs and landing…a monster amount of wood but fairly forgiving as I mentioned.

I’m also keen to identify a clear (no stain) satin finish for that Oak and indeed the Mahogany as well. Something forgiving to apply with a quality finish. Happy with any ideas from varnish to…whatever.

The Ronseal product was remarkably good on both those counts but I feel certain that this is basement level entry for what can be done a lot better if experience to date advice wise is anything to go by … any ideas or articles or links? I guess I should make a separate posting but seeing as I’m here - thanks for the advice as always.

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Fluxaf Super clearly works wonders! As an alternative to the Varnish, try Osmo. You will need to use the Clear Extra Thin, a thinned down version of the Polyx for hard woods such as Mahogany, Meranti etc, which with 2 coats will give a rich Satin Matt finish. It is also really easy to apply, there is no need to sand down between coats, and it will not flake or peel.

If you need any more info get in touch.


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Morning Ben, could you send me a link(s) to these products please? I did look at them last night but for the life of me cannot find this morning.

Although the problem area is Mahagony, the vast majority is American Oak…a huge amount of it…upwards of 14 doors, good knows how many meters of skirting, stairs and picture rail. Is it also good on that?

If you could send a link then I’ll order and try some.


Osmo links below
[1]: - Polyx Oil
[1]: - Extra Thin

I am waiting to hear back if you can use the Extra Thin successfully on both Mahogany and Oak to save you from getting 2 different tins. Will let you know asap.

Extra Thin in the Mahogany, Polyx on the Oak.

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Hi Ben…the links have not come through but looked up … do you mean these?:

Just had a quick look on your web site…can these be ordered there or via email? Also are they stock and estimate of lead time please…they are a bit urgent time wise. Apologies, bit off topic but if you could advise I can order straight away. Cheers

Ahh, TP wen site does not like me putting full web links, tried to put version up above without the w.w.w. bit

Hi, there is a built in limit on how many links new members can put into posts. One of the side effects of moving across from the other forum is that everyone is “new”! I have altered your level so should be OK now. If not, let me know.

Hi Andy - no worries, thanks for adjusting. Cheers

I have both here. Polyx £18.09/750ml (18m2 with 1 coat) £54.75/2.5L (60m2 w 1 coat)
Clear Extra Thin £16.36 or £49.64 same tin sizes, same coverage. 2 Coats needed. Next Day delivery £7.84.

All prices are ex Vat.

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Update on the supposed Mahogany mantle…turns out to be English Oak! It was so dark and impenetrable that we thought it was Mahogany. And after 6 years coming back to this thing and trying again and again…it’s coming up great now. The Fluxaf and the wire brush are the perfect combination answer.

I have been over this with Nitromorse and wire wool upwards of 4, maybe 5 times. originally it was nearly black, or dark brown with a hugely shiny gloss surface. I started in 2004! And gave up expecting anything from it. It got better each time but was still a horrible dirty dark colour.

The Fluxaf and the heavy duty wire brush work perfect…it’s now pure Oak and very light. I almost giggled…in fact I did, it was that good. Half is done and half not. i’m going to take a photo later on of this thing just to show how bloody good the combination of material and tools compared. It’s almost unbelievable.

The entire room is now stripped and sanded ready for the Osmo Polyx Satin Matt Clear that is on it’s way. If this works out (and looking at some Youtube lengthy vids just I’d say it’s highly likely that it will) then we are going to strip the entire house and go with this. The light oak satin finish that we put on a couple of years back (and were previously very happy with) now suddenly looks very 1980’s kitchen cabinet door and so is the next victim/beneficiary of the TP web site effect :smile:


…one step forward, one step back!

After getting the mantle and the rest of the room to a good stripped back and sanded finish I applied the Osmo Polyx satin matt.

Whilst applying well and thin, the colour was not what was expected for our needs…too dark and with a gentle but too deep orangy hue. Not the fault of the product … not the prep in fact, just lack of familiarity with the finish effect on my part. After some excellent advice and discussion with Ben at Paints & Interiors today, we have settled on Osmo Raw as an alternative. Is important to get it right now as if we progress with rest of house (as is likely) then we need it to be not close but perfect.

Lessons learnt? Actually read the label and listen to the advise given and test on a sample piece. DO NOT apply to half the XXXXX room before realising all is not peachy!

The terror at thinking of stripping the Osmo off kept me awake half the night. However I expanded the life changing brilliant idea Andy had to use a heavy duty wire brush to remove the Fluxaf (on the mantle) and bought a cheap Hamilton (softer than the one used for the mantle) wire brush. An amazing £3 spent!

Although taking a good while to do, it is infinitely better than wire-wool which I have sent the last X years using to limited effect. In fact it bring a texture to the American Oak which improves it significantly.

Jeyes fluid used to be my favorite product ever. Then it was the Sonos music system later replaced by my stainless steel beer can chicken roaster. but move over Kodrin Spachtel, the humble wire brush and Kluxaf just took over at numero uno :smile:

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Indeed, sampling never hurt! And that is a good tip about reading the label. Also look at the tech data sheets that are available too for products you aren’t used to. All adds to the perspective on what you are using.

Hi Ben.

Well Osmo Raw hit the spot perfectly! After stripping all the first Osmo application off and re-sanding, I put the Raw on and it came up very well. Exactly as you mentioned, I used a fine sanding sponge on the first coat … it makes a huge difference to the touch and I think to the appearance on the second coat. … on one door I forgot to do this and it was definitely inferior result. I did a light sand and chanced a third coat and it came up perfect…very forgiving stuff.

I applied the second coat of Raw and it’s come up absolutely perfect…for our needs that is. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I can imagine some folk might find it looking a little too ‘wood like’ but it’s spot on for us and very easy to apply.

Definitely we will be picking off each room and doing it to the same finish over the coming few months. What is very surprising is how far this stuff goes. Of the one liter can I still have about a quarter left and that’s after 3 full oak doors, a room full of skirting, the mantle and a large flat desk worktop.

It wasn’t quite so impressive on the mantle but the wood there whilst good, is not as perfect as the rest of the room…more graning and the jury is still out as to what wood it really is under all the levels of gunk that was layered on it. Still a very good finish just not as good as the rest of the better finished American Oak. Definitely it is the result we needed. Very happy. I think we will give the floors a crack as well with this in the Summer.


Following the advice about Fluxaf and wire brushes (which works an absolute treat) I bought a couple more wire brushes to try.

One that really worked well is from Purdy. They claim it’s twice as efficient. Having bought and tried it, it definitely has an edge. The wire brush rows are slightly angled and at opposing angles as well. It does seem to improve the removal process, finish wise and time wise, especially on longer flat surfaces. Wasn’t expensive either … think was about a fiver.

I also bought the Hamilton and Bahco shaped scrapers with triangular and round blades. There doesn’t seem much difference if any between them from a blade point of view … the handle and finish are superior on the Bahco…both effective and worthwhile. Worth having two to avoid swapping the shaped blades each time. In my badly managed tool kit that would result in about 10 lost and reordered blades a year before finding all of them (and never needing them again) in year two! :smile:

Then finally I bought what I thought was a secondhand ebay Bahco wide tungsten carbide scraper but when it arrived it was labelled Sandvik. The colour, build and finish are identical to the Bacho one. Again equally as effective as the Hamiliton wide scraper.

It doesn’t eliminate the pain of varnish stripping but certainly reduces it and improves the finish having the right gear.

Any other magic ingredients I should factor in before moving to the other rooms? it’s going to be a long haul and I’d hate to find a silver bullet after I finish!

Andy hi again, just reading your first post that kicked off the stripping work. I missed one thing that I don’t understand. What is Pro Clean please?

Glad it worked out well. Also interesting stuff about the Purdy wire brush - one to have on the shelves maybe. The Bahco scrappers work really well and i have had mine for years the neat little angled blades get into all sorts of areas. Would love to see photos when you get a chance.

Yeah I’ve never done the photo thing before (wish I had) but am doing now…it’s easy to forget where you started from and arrived at with these projects…and sometimes the sheer misery (and occasionally the pleasure) that derives from doing it.

Will post some photos when I’m wrapped up fully with the office and maybe hall area. Cheers Ben, great advice and result.