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Expert's Corner — surface

TIP: Shellac and Fish Eye

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TIP: Shellac and Fish Eye

Fish eye is cratering or ridging in the finish right after application (brush or spray). It is caused by silicone in the wood. The silicone is an oil that is commonly included in furniture polishes, hand creams and other household products. The oil is very slick and prevents the finish from leveling out. All finishes are susceptible to fish eye if the silicone contamination is great enough. But for most situations shellac isn’t affected by the silicone. A coat of shellac will block the silicone so another finish can be applied on top without a problem. On this sample, I...

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TIP: Door and Drawer Edges Under Sinks

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TIP: Door and Drawer Edges Under Sinks

Especially when spraying finishes, it’s common to get too little finish on the edges of cabinet doors and drawers. If these doors and drawers are installed under a sink in a kitchen or bathroom, splashed water will break through the thin finish, causing it to peel. There’s rarely anything you can do to fix this damage short of stripping and refinishing. So it’s important to get enough finish on the edges to begin with. The most common method of spraying doors and drawers is to lay them flat and spray from above. Typically, the edges are sprayed at a 45°...

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TIP: Dry Off NMP Residue

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Paint and varnish removers sold in plastic containers contain the solvent n-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) as the active ingredient. This solvent is relatively expensive, so manufacturers often mix in other solvents to reduce the cost. But it’s the NMP that does the majority of the work. NMP has less solvent strength than the methylene chloride and the other solvents used in strippers sold in cans. Just the packaging, plastic vs. metal, tells you this. The reason NMP is still effective is that it evaporates extremely slowly, so it can remain wet on the paint or finish for days if necessary. I...

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

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TIP: Alchohol and Lacquer Thinner for Stripping

Alcohol dissolves shellac, and lacquer thinner dissolves lacquer. So you can use these solvents instead of paint-and-varnish remover for stripping. The advantage is that you don’t have to then remove the wax residue or dry off the lingering n-methyl-pyrrolidone solvent. The disadvantage is that it’s more difficult to strip complex three-dimensional surfaces. But alcohol and lacquer thinner are easy to use on flat surfaces such as tabletops. Simply wet some rags or paper towels with the solvent and lay them on the surface. Keep them wet by pouring on more solvent until the finish has liquefied and you can wipe...

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