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Expert's Corner — alcohol

TIP: Two tricks to successful French polishing

alcohol brush marks mineral oil rag shellac the finishing store tracks wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

There are two very useful tricks to getting good results when French polishing. The first is to achieve a one-foot-or-less “comet’s tail” trailing the pad as you move it over the surface—as shown in the accompanying picture. This tail is made by the alcohol in the French-polishing solution evaporating through the oil (also in the solution). If the tail is too long, the pad is too wet, and you’ll probably damage the surface. When the tail gets really short, just a couple of inches, this is the signal that you need to add more shellac, alcohol and oil (I use...

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TIP: Two tricks to successful French polishing

alcohol brush marks mineral oil rag shellac the finishing store tracks wood woodfinishing woodwork woodworking

There are two very useful tricks to getting good results when French polishing. The first is to achieve a one-foot-or-less “comet’s tail” trailing the pad as you move it over the surface—as shown in the accompanying picture. This tail is made by the alcohol in the French-polishing solution evaporating through the oil (also in the solution). If the tail is too long, the pad is too wet, and you’ll probably damage the surface. When the tail gets really short, just a couple of inches, this is the signal that you need to add more shellac, alcohol and oil (I use...

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Fixing Flubs with an Artist’s Flair

alcohol bill finish finisher finishers finishes finishing methyl perry product sanders surface the finishing store thisckness woodworkers

Finishing is the process of transferring liquid out of its container and onto a project using a brush, rag or spray gun. Sounds simple, but doing so flawlessly can be easier said than done, as many of us discover. Fortunately, fixing our errors isn’t overly complicated. Moreover, it’s often fun, as you get to stretch your artistic wings with some custom coloring and detailing. But it’s better to avoid problems in the first place – specifically those related to wood preparation – so let’s start there. Many woodworkers believe that wood from the home center’s rack or fresh from their...

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TIP: Dry Off NMP Residue

advantage alcohol complex efficient effort finish finishes finishing generates n-methyl-pyrrolidone paint thinner prep prepare preperation remove remover solvents strippers stripping surface tabletops the finishing store wood woodwork woodworkers

Paint and varnish removers sold in plastic containers contain the solvent n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) as the active ingredient. This solvent is relatively expensive, so manufacturers often mix in other solvents to reduce the cost. But it’s the NMP that does the majority of the work. NMP has less solvent strength than the methylene chloride and the other solvents used in strippers sold in cans. Just the packaging, plastic vs. metal, tells you this. The reason NMP is still effective is that it evaporates extremely slowly, so it can remain wet on the paint or finish for days if necessary. I...

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

Alcohol dissolves shellac, and lacquer thinner dissolves lacquer. So you can use these solvents instead of paint-and-varnish remover for stripping. The advantage is that you don’t have to then remove the wax residue or dry off the lingering n-methyl-pyrrolidone solvent. The disadvantage is that it’s more difficult to strip complex three-dimensional surfaces. But alcohol and lacquer thinner are easy to use on flat surfaces such as tabletops. Simply wet some rags or paper towels with the solvent and lay them on the surface. Keep them wet by pouring on more solvent until the finish has liquefied and you can wipe...

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