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Expert's Corner — stains

Finishing in Hot or Humid Weather

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It seems that one of the topics I get a tremendous amount of emails about is when folks are having issues due to the heat and humidity. A huge number of woodworkers spray their finishes outside and in doing so, are at the mercy of uncontrolled temperatures. Spraying in these conditions can be risky business. Most finishes simply do not like to be force dried. When spraying in direct sunlight the surface of the finish will skim over leaving the underlying finish still soft. The finish can then blister; this is most predominant in solvent base finishes. The surface dries...

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TIP: Stains can change color over time

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Many, probably most, store-bought stains are made with both dye and pigment. If wood stained with these stains is exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light for a while, the dye color will fade away, but the pigment color will remain. The effect is that the stained wood changes color. In the accompanying picture the red dye in this “cherry” stain has faded on the top half (I covered the bottom half) after only a few days in direct sunlight, leaving the color significantly different. It’s definitely no longer cherry color. The fading occurs much more rapidly in direct sunlight than...

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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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Preparing Wood for a Finish

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Preparing Wood for a Finish

The reason you have to sand wood before applying a finish is to remove machine marks. All machine tools leave cuts or impressions in wood that are highlighted by stains and finishes, especially by stains. Before machine tools appeared in the mid-nineteenth century no sanding was needed. Indeed, there was no sandpaper. Wood was smoothed with hand planes and scrapers. You can still use hand planes and scrapers to smooth wood; you don’t have to use sandpaper. You can hand plane or scrape the wood straight from the saw, or you can begin the smoothing with a jointer and planer...

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