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TIP: Wiping Varnish, An Easy Finish with Good Durability

Wiping varnish is a term I coined about 20 years ago to categorize (so we could understand what we were dealing with) a number of finishes that were each represented by manufacturers as unique, when in reality they were all simply oil-based varnish or polyurethane thinned about half with mineral spirits.

You can make your own, of course, or buy a commercial brand such as Wipe-On Poly, Waterlox, Seal-a-Cell, Profin or any product labeled “tung oil” that contains “petroleum distillate.” (Real tung oil is labeled 100% tung oil and never contains thinner.)

Just like full strength varnish and polyurethane, wiping varnish cures hard, and it is water resistant if three or four coats are applied.

To apply wiping varnish, brush or wipe it on the wood and wipe off all or most of the excess. You can also brush and leave the wiping varnish for a faster build, but brush it out thin on vertical surfaces to avoid runs.

Allow overnight drying between coats. Before applying each additional coat, sand lightly with 320- or 400-grit sandpaper to remove dust nibs. Apply as many coats as you want to give you the look and protection you desire.



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