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Expert's Corner — surface

TIP: “Equalizing” Sapwood

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TIP: “Equalizing” Sapwood

To achieve an even coloring with darker colored woods, it’s always best to use only heartwood to begin with. But this isn’t always possible. So you may want to “equalize” the coloring of the sapwood and heartwood. One method is to bleach the wood using two-part bleach (sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide). This will remove the coloring from the heartwood, so you can then stain the wood back to the color you want. But it’s usually better to equalize the sapwood to the color of the heartwood. The easier way to do this, if you intend to stain the wood...

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TIP: The Difference Between “Drying” and “Curing”

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When a finish changes from a liquid to a solid film, it’s called “drying” or “curing.” Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to different methods of forming the film, and understanding this difference helps in understanding finishes. Drying refers to the evaporation of the solvent, which results in a solid film. Shellac and lacquer are the most common finishes that change to a solid by drying. (Liquid and paste waxes also work this way.) Finishes that dry entirely by solvent evaporation can be redissolved by wetting the surface of the finish film with the thinner—alcohol for shellac...

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TIP: Stain gets wood too dark

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There are two broad categories of stain: dye that is dissolved in a liquid, and dye and/or pigment combined with a binder. The first are usually called “dye” stains and are sold either as powders for you to do the dissolving, or are already dissolved in a liquid solvent. The second are often called “wiping stains,” “pigment stains,” “oil stains,” “water-based stains” or “lacquer stains” and are the common stains you buy in cans at home centers and paint stores. If a dye stain gets the wood too dark, try removing some of the dye by wiping with its solvent....

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Coating Over an Existing Finish: A Risky Business that Sometimes Works

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Finishes deteriorate as they age. First they dull, then they begin to crack. Exposure to light in the higher ultra-violet ranges, such as sunlight and fluorescent light, accelerates the deterioration. Finishes also get damaged from abuse, which can cause a surface to look bad. In some cases, the only way to repair the deterioration or damage and make the furniture or woodwork look good again is to strip off the old finish and refinish. There are many situations, however, where applying a coat or two of finish on top of what is already there can make the old deteriorated or...

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Use Wood Shavings To Remove Stripper Gunk

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Almost all old furniture is finished with either shellac or lacquer (shellac until the 1920s, lacquer since). Both of these finishes dissolve into a messy “gunk” when paint stripper is applied. On complex surfaces, such as turnings and carvings, an easy way to remove the gunk is to wipe it off with handfuls of wood shavings from a jointer or planer. The shavings soak up the gunk and you can remove them easily with a stiff bristle brush. If you don’t have a planer or jointer of your own, you may be able to find the shavings at a local...

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