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Expert's Corner — bob flexner

Finishing Terms: “Corns”

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Finishing Terms: “Corns”

The accompanying picture shows what you don’t want to happen when you’re sanding a finish. The little brownish lumps, called “corns,” are finish that has been melted by the heat created during sanding, and they are large enough to leave much deeper scratches in the finish than those created by the sanding grit. These scratches will then have to be sanded out to keep them from telegraphing through the next coat. Some finishes cause corns much easier than others. These include oil-based varnish, lacquer and shellac. Oil-based polyurethane, water-based finishes and high-performance (catalyzed) finishes don’t cause corns as easily. Sanding...

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TIP: Water-Based Finish is White in the Can

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TIP: Water-Based Finish is White in the Can

Labeling on cans of polyurethane and lacquer can sometimes be confusing. It may not be obvious whether the finish is solvent-based or water-based. One way to distinguish which is which is to read the label for the thinning and clean-up solvent. Solvent-based products will list a solvent such as petroleum distillate, aliphatic hydrocarbon or lacquer thinner. Water-based products will list water. Another way to tell is to open the can and look at the finish. Solvent-based products will be clear; water-based finishes will be white. The whiteness disappears when the finish dries.

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TIP: Controlling Sheen: Making Semi-Gloss or Dead Flat

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TIP: Controlling Sheen: Making Semi-Gloss or Dead Flat

You aren’t limited to the sheens of finishes available from most suppliers and stores—usually just gloss and satin, sometimes semi-gloss. You can make any sheen you want from just one can of satin finish. First, let the flatting agent (the stuff you have to stir into suspension before use) settle to the bottom of the can. The easy way to do this is to tell the store clerk not to shake the can. Otherwise, let the can sit undisturbed on a shelf for a week or two. Then pour off some of the gloss finish at the top of the...

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TIP: Stirring Stain

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TIP: Stirring Stain

Don’t be fooled by the color of a stain just after you remove the lid, especially with water-based stains. With these stains the combination of binder and solvent may be off-white, which is not at all what you are expecting. The pigment will have settled entirely to the bottom of the can, and it may have hardened enough so that shaking the can doesn’t bring it all into suspension. It’s always best to stir the stain with a stirring stick. When you remove all the pigment off the bottom of the can and into suspension, the color of the liquid...

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How I Came to Write “Flexner On Finishing”

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Writing about wood finishing is the last thing I ever thought I’d do. In fact, I’ve never particularly liked doing finishing. I’d much rather do woodworking, like most everyone else. Being good at finishing (whether I liked it or not) became important, however, in the late 1970s when I opened my furniture making and restoration shop. I needed to learn how to do it, but I quickly found that the available information was really bad. There were three sources: books at the public library, Fine Woodworking magazine (the only magazine dedicated to woodworking at that time) and instructions from manufacturers...

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