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Expert's Corner — finish

We Are All Reluctant Finishers

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While I am a professional finisher, I am a hobbyist woodworker. That mix makes me a wood snob. I love working with wood in any capacity. Because my head and hands are in finishing all week long, I tend to do as little of it as possible in my personal life, but I still love messing around with wood in most any form. This passion took root for me in 1995 when I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time and meeting what would turn out to be my mentor in the world...

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TIP: Finish color differences

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TIP: Finish color differences

Finishes differ in the amount of color they add to wood. Though you may not notice much of a difference if you are applying the finish over a stain, there is a significant difference when no stain or other coloring steps are used. In the accompanying picture, you can see the differences clearly. On the far left is paste wax. It adds almost no coloring to the walnut. Next is water-based finish, which also doesn’t add color, but it does darken the wood a little because of the penetration. In the middle is nitrocellulose lacquer, which adds a slight yellowing...

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TIP: Disguising Glue Seepage and Wood-putty Splotches

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Glue seepage, or glue on your fingers that’s transferred to the wood, blocks stain penetration. This usually results in a lighter area. The same can happen with wood putty because it doesn’t accept color the same as wood does. In both cases, you have a lighter area or spot that you want to color in to match the surrounding wood. Here’s how to do it. As shown in the accompanying picture, the better method is usually to first seal the wood, then paint in the grain. Connect the grain lines on either side of the lighter area. When this has...

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Using Reflected Light to Advantage

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Using Reflected Light to Advantage

You should never have runs or sags in your dried finish. The trick to avoiding them is to spot them before the finish dries and remove them with a brush. The way to see runs and sags developing is to look at the surface in a reflected light, as shown in the accompanying picture. You may need to move your head, walk around, or even arrange some special lights other than the overhead lights or the light coming in through a window. Repairing Finishes Once you have spotted the problem, use a brush to brush out the excess finish even...

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Fillers - When Smooth isn't Smooth Enough

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Fillers - When Smooth isn't Smooth Enough

So, you've just finished that stellar table top and you'd like to give it a 'smooth as glass' finish.  What's a woodworker to do? Why, 'Fill and Finish' of course. There are two kinds of 'fillers' - putty type fillers used to fill scratches, dents, and holes in wood, and grain (aka pore) fillers that serve to level out the surface of open grained woods. It's the latter filler that concerns us here. Woods such as oak, ash, elm, mahogany, chestnut, walnut, wenge, and teak are characterized as having 'open grain' because the wood pores are large. In contrast, 'closed...

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