ONETIME- Hot hands: Handle strippers with care

Michael Keith Michael Restoration, as told to Justin Humphreys

One time, I was sixteen and apprenticing, and we used a very strong chemical stripper. I was warned about it, but I didn't wear any gloves– now if I use it, I always do because it gives you chemical burns. It makes your fingers feel like they're in acid.

But after you've been using it for a bit, it sort of calluses up your hands and makes them tough. You don't realize it, but quickly, you become fairly adapted to it, and you can work with it for long periods and it doesn't really affect you.

Anyway, one of my colleagues had been working away, and it came time to answer the call of nature. So he finished what he was doing and popped into the restroom. But his desensitized hands still must have had chemical stripper on them. And to the surprise of the chap at the sink, he came running around the room with his trousers around his ankles, screaming in pain, pushed him out of the way and threw handfuls of water across his crotch to try and relieve the agony.

Always wear chemical gloves and if you don't, make sure that you really neutralize your hands prior to using the commode.

You really shouldn't mess around with chemical strippers. You should either get someone professional who has a professional tank that has a way of sucking out the vapor to do them. The vapor is so strong that it pickles the old finish and peels it off.

You should always be in a well-ventilated place, because it attacks your nervous system. And it can give you an experience of being a little bit hung-over and can also give you the munchies.

Another time, we were hand-stripping a bookcase. And the boss called an early tea break. So we turned the two fires off, and opened the windows to vent out the stripper fumes and the heavy London fog-like mist filling the room from the heaters.

We went outside and I was definitely feeling a bit drunk and hung-over. I was ravenous. My dad still packed my lunch— I was about sixteen. I opened my lunchbox, and there was this pork pie. With great enthusiasm, I attacked it.

As I began regaining my senses, it dawned on me that the pork pie had the wrong texture. It was kind of crunchy. I was using my teeth to rasp bits off, which didn't seem right. With sudden clarity, I realized that my dad had taken a pork pie out of the freezer, figuring that by lunchtime it would have defrosted. But it was only early tea break.

So I had managed to chomp my way through half a frozen pork pie. 

The moral of this story: always work with potent chemicals in well-ventilated areas and wear a carbon filter respirator.