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Expert's Corner — thinner

Polyurethane Won’t Dry

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If you experience oil-based polyurethane not drying well, it’s not likely that it’s bad polyurethane. It’s more likely that the wood you’re finishing contains a natural oil or you have applied an oil to the wood and the oil hasn’t dried. In both cases we’re talking only about the first coat of polyurethane. After the first coat has dried, there shouldn’t be any further drying problems. Most exotic woods (woods from jungle areas), with the exception of mahogany, contain a natural resin that is very oily. You can feel the oiliness. The mineral-spirits solvent in the polyurethane is also the...

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Thin All You Want

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You often see cans of solvent finishes such as varnish, polyurethane and lacquer with instructions not to thin them. Manufacturers include these instructions in order to comply with VOC laws in some areas of the country. Adding thinner could take the finish out of compliance with the local or state laws, and manufacturers might be breaking the law if they advocated thinning. But you can’t do any harm to these finishes by adding thinner. In fact, you can add all the thinner you want, even 99 percent, without causing any harm. You’ll just get a thinner build with each coat,...

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TIP: A Solution to Overspray Problems

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If you are spraying without adequate exhaust, you may experience finish in the form of fine dust settling on your work, sticking to it, and causing it to feel rough, almost like fine sandpaper. This isn’t a problem until your last coat because you can easily sand out the rough feel. But you can’t sand your final coat without then going to the trouble of rubbing the entire surface with finer-and-finer-grit abrasives until you create a pleasing even sheen. If you are spraying shellac or lacquer, there is a solution to the overspray problem. After spraying your final coat, spray...

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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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