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Expert's Corner — surface

TIP: Brushing Onto a Vertical Surface

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TIP: Brushing Onto a Vertical Surface

Here’s a trick for avoiding runs when brushing a finish onto a vertical surface. Brush back over the areas where the finish is so thick that it runs to pick up some of the excess with the brush’s bristles. Then wipe off this excess onto a clean cloth you hold in your other hand, as shown in the accompanying picture. You may need to do this several times to remove enough finish so it doesn’t run anymore. Always remember that you can’t see what is happening on the brushed surface unless you look at it in a reflected light. You...

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TIP: Water-Based Finish Should Powder

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TIP: Water-Based Finish Should Powder

As with all finishes, you should always sand the first coat of water-based finish smooth because it always dries rough to the touch. It’s also the best policy to sand additional coats smooth after they dry to remove dust nibs and other flaws, until the last coat, which you can leave as is.Water-based finishes dry rapidly, almost as fast as the water evaporates from the finish. So the drying occurs quicker on hot or dry days and slower on cold or humid days. How do you know when the finish is dry? It powders on the sandpaper and on the...

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Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Testing for Shellac

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Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Testing for Shellac

Almost all furniture and woodwork finished between the 1820s and 1920s was finished with shellac. But if you want to test to be sure, here’s the way to do it. Put a little denatured alcohol on your finger and dab it onto an inconspicuous area of the finish, as shown in the accompanying picture. If the surface gets sticky or if the finish comes off on your finger, the finish is shellac. Shellac dissolves in alcohol, so you could use the alcohol to strip the finish if that is your intention, instead of using paint stripper.

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TIP: Sanding with a Random Orbit Sander

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TIP: Sanding with a Random Orbit Sander

There are two large categories of random orbit sanders: electric and pneumatic (compressed air.) Both work well, though you need a fairly large compressor to power a pneumatic sander adequately. Random orbit sanders are easy to use; you don’t need much instruction. But there are two general rules to keep in mind for achieving the best results: Let the weight of the sander do the work. If you press down on it, you’ll leave deeper and more obvious “squigglies” that then have to be sanded out. Simply move the sander slowly over the surface in some pattern that covers all...

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TIP: Staining Sapwood with Dye

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The easiest way to stain lighter-colored sapwood so it blends with the heartwood is to stain all the wood with a dye stain, as is shown on the right side of the accompanying picture of walnut. Dye is much more effective than pigment, or any commercial stain that contains a binder. You can apply the dye several times after each application has dried to get a darker color. Or, with water-soluble powder dyes, such as those from W.D. Lockwood, you can wipe over the stain with a water-damp cloth to remove some of the dye and lighten the color. You...

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