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Expert's Corner — furniture

Waterborne Finishes - Pro and Con

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My beginning was in automotive finishing and it remained my career for the next twenty years, then I switched to woodworking and finishing. As with most finishers, I began with the old nitrocellulose lacquers and while they were very friendly to use, they were less than a long-term hard use finish. Then came the pre-catalyzed and post-catalyzed lacquers, a big improvement and they remained relatively user friendly. With the introduction of urethanes and other manmade resins, durability improved even more, but they also had their issues. Even with modern day post-catalyzed conversion varnishes and so forth there are environmental issues....

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How to Choose a Finish: Part I

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How to Choose a Finish: Part I

The first step in finishing a project (beyond preparing the wood, of course) is to choose the finish you want to use. In fact, it's wise to make this choice even before starting on the project because it may influence the wood you choose. There are seven broad categories of finishes to choose from: Oil and blends of oil and varnish (often called "Danish" oil) Varnish, which includes polyurethane varnish, spar varnish, wiping varnish (varnish thinned about half with mineral spirits) and gel varnish Shellac, which can be clear or amber and with its natural wax included or removed Lacquer,...

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Building Period Reproduction Furniture by Glen Huey

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There is some discussion on what exactly constitutes reproduction furniture. Is it pieces built using tools and techniques that woodworkers used in the 1700s? If so, are we to pit saw the wood into planks, use hand tools for the entire build and hand scrape the surface for finish? I think not. If it were possible to bring the best furniture-makers from the 18th century into today, I expect they all would immediately favor the woodworking machines we have at our disposal, but they would continue to use hand tools where it makes the most sense. In other words, woodworkers...

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Why Shellac Is My Go To Finish for Fine Furniture

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"I prefer to spray my shellac. Spraying shellac results in an even smoother finish which greatly reduces the amount of sanding during finish work." Rodney Dangerfield’s famous comedic catchphrase was, “I don’t get no respect.” In the world of furniture finishes, shellac gets no respect. That lack of respect is unwarranted. In fact, shellac is my “go to” finish on fine furniture. It should be yours as well. The lack of respect for shellac may be due to the fact that it, a natural resin, is made from a bug’s secretions – not bug droppings, as some think. A lac...

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TIP: Refinishing and Value

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Many people are confused about whether or not to refinish old furniture whose finish is in bad shape. They don’t really like living with the furniture, but they’ve heard (usually directly or indirectly from the Antiques Roadshow) that refinishing destroys value, and they surely don’t want to do that. A finish serves two purposes. It protects the wood from contact with liquids, and it makes the wood look better, usually richer and deeper. The finish protects and decorates. Clearly the finish in the accompanying picture does neither. In almost all cases it should be removed and replaced with a new...

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