Hi, Gail. There is no mechanical stripping method that is not going to remove paint without removing wood except a heat gun. Personally, I think that they are much more difficult to use than an environmentally friendly chemical stripper, but knock yourself out, if you wish. Keep in mind that a heat gun on lead based paint that gets too hot will release lead vapor that is highly dangerous.
I agree with you that methyl chloride based strippers are extremely dangerous, but you might want to take a look at products like Citristrip. While it is non-toxic, it can give you a chemical burn if you completely disregard the safety warnings. I think that you are making a mistake in writing off chemical strippers as they do a much better job than mechanical methods but I am the first to agree that you want to choose your chemical stripper carefully. Check www.citristrip.com and, in particular, Catherine in St. Pete's many questions. You might find lots of good other info. For example, she questioned how safe shellac was for a finish. The FDA approves it for making pills and candy, so there are "chemicals" that are safe to use.