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Expert's Corner — oils

Minimal Finish Odor

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If you want as little finish smell as possible—for example, on cabinets in a house or office that is occupied, or on the inside of a box or chest—there are two finishes to choose between: water-based finish and shellac. Other finishes, including oils, varnishes and lacquers will require days and maybe longer for all the residual odor to dissipate. There are two major differences between water-based finish and shellac. Water-based finish is more scratch resistant and imparts no coloring to the wood. Shellac will scratch easier and add a warm yellow-orange tone to the wood. Both dry rapidly, so you...

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TIP: Boiled Linseed Oil vs. 100% Tung Oil as a Finish

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There are two widely available drying oils on the market that can be used as wood finishes: boiled linseed oil and 100% tung oil. Both dry to a non-sticky, very thin film after several days when all the excess is wiped off. Here’s a comparison of the two oils. Boiled linseed oil has driers added to make it dry much faster than raw linseed oil, which can take weeks or months to dry. The drying is adequate only when the excess is wiped off after each application. Tung oil doesn't contain driers. It takes two or three days to dry...

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TIP: Store Water-Based Brushes

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TIP: Store Water-Based Brushes

Water-based finishes dry in several hours, so it’s easy to apply two or three coats in a day. In other words, unlike with oils and varnishes, you can complete a finishing project in one day using a water-based finish. The rapid drying occurs not only on the wood but also on the brush. Instead of washing the brush between each coat, which is perfectly legitimate, it’s much more efficient to just store the brush. There are two easy ways to do this: Hang the brush in a jar of water. (Notice in this photo that I have drilled an additional...

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TIP: Oil and Spontaneous Combustion

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Drying oils, especially linseed oil, are the only finishing materials that spontaneously combust. Solvents don’t spontaneously combust, paint strippers (including paint or finish residue) don’t spontaneously combust, and no type of varnish spontaneously combusts. It’s not totally clear whether 100% tung oil can spontaneously combust, so treat it like it does. As linseed oil dries, it generates heat as a byproduct. If you wad up linseed-oil rags or pile them on top of each other, the heat generated in the middle can’t dissipate. It builds up until it reaches the flash point of the cloth and it bursts into flame....

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