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Expert's Corner — oil

TIP: How to Avoid a Lot of Sanding with Oil Finishes

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It’s not necessary to sand above 180 or 220 grit when applying an oil or oil/varnish blend finish. You can achieve the same smooth feeling results by sanding each coat after the first while that coat is still wet on the wood. You are wiping off all the excess anyway, so sanding dust isn’t a problem. Here are the steps: Sand the wood to 180 or 220 grit, sanding in the direction of the grain. Apply a wet coat of boiled linseed oil, 100% tung oil, your own mixture or oil and varnish or one of a number of commercial...

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TIP: Pigment Colorants for Oil and Varnish

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The two widely available pigment colorants for oils and varnishes are oil colors and Japan colors. The difference is that oil colors are pigment ground in linseed oil while Japan colors are pigment ground in varnish. So the difference in practice is that Japan colors dry faster and harder than oil colors, though if you were to mix an oil color with varnish, it should dry well. The name “Japan” comes from the attempt in the West to imitate Japanned furniture (also called Japanese or Oriental Lacquer) that was imported in the 17th and 18th century. So the harder drying...

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TIP: Penetrating Finish

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The term “penetrating finish” is one of the most misleading in the vocabulary of finishing because all finishes penetrate. The term is generally used to describe just oil finishes, which dry slowly so they may penetrate a little deeper than faster-drying finishes. But depth of penetration doesn’t have anything to do with protection for the wood, and it’s here that the term becomes misleading because many people think it does, and some manufacturers claim it does. The common descriptive phrase is that the finish “protects the wood from the inside.” But the quality of a finish that creates better protection...

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TIP: Understanding Furniture Care Products

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TIP: Understanding Furniture Care Products

Making a decision which furniture care product to use or recommend can seem impossibly confusing if you listen to advertising or read labels. But if you separate the products into four categories for what they do, they are understandable, and you can make an intelligent choice. The four categories are clear, emulsion (milky white), silicone and wax. A few examples of each are shown, left to right, in the accompanying picture. Clear polishes are usually packaged in clear plastic containers and are based on petroleum distillates such as mineral spirits or, sometimes, citrus oils. They clean grease and remove wax,...

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TIP: Restoring Life to Dry Wood

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TIP: Restoring Life to Dry Wood

The wood in old furniture and woodwork often takes on a dry appearance, and people want to know what to do to restore life to the wood. Because of widespread misinformation from furniture polish manufacturers that wood contains natural oils that need to be replaced by furniture polishes, many people think they need to apply oil to the wood. But the problem is rarely in the wood (and only woods from the tropics contain a natural oily resin anyway). It’s the old finish that has deteriorated and become cracked and crazed that makes the wood appear dry. Light no longer...

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