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Expert's Corner — Tips

TIP: Spotting Glue Seepage

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It’s very irritating to apply a stain to a project only to find there’s glue on the surface that prevents penetration. Areas with glue show up lighter. There are two easy methods of checking for glue so you can remove it: wet the wood with water; or wet the wood with a thinner such as mineral spirits (paint thinner). Water will turn the glue white, as shown in the picture. The area will be lighter under mineral spirits, similar to the way it looks under a stain. The problem with using water is that it raises the grain of the...

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TIP: Finish Both Sides?

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A pervasive myth in the woodworking community is that you should finish both sides of wood, especially tabletops, to reduce the likelihood of warping. This myth has been carried to the extremes of finishing insides of chests-of-drawers, cabinets and drawers. Especially for the undersides of tabletops and the insides of drawers and cabinets, it’s often a good idea to apply a finish for looks, feel and ease of cleaning. But the finish does almost nothing to prevent warps. All your experience tells you this. For example, finishing undersides or insides of furniture made before the 1920s was very unusual. If...

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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: Finishing Over Waxed Wood

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It can be difficult to get a finish to flow out and stick well to bare wood that has been waxed. Here’s how to proceed. Wash off as much of the wax as possible with mineral spirits (paint thinner). You can use odorless mineral spirits if you want. Keep turning and changing your cloths or paper towels so you are lifting off and removing the wax and not just spreading it around. I’ve seen cases where the wax is so hard that mineral spirits doesn’t dissolve it easily. For these instances, you can try naphtha, acetone or lacquer thinner, and...

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TIP: Boiled Linseed Oil vs. 100% Tung Oil as a Finish

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There are two widely available drying oils on the market that can be used as wood finishes: boiled linseed oil and 100% tung oil. Both dry to a non-sticky, very thin film after several days when all the excess is wiped off. Here’s a comparison of the two oils. Boiled linseed oil has driers added to make it dry much faster than raw linseed oil, which can take weeks or months to dry. The drying is adequate only when the excess is wiped off after each application. Tung oil doesn't contain driers. It takes two or three days to dry...

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