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Expert's Corner — varnish

TIP: Use Wood Conditioner to Reduce Blotching in Softwoods

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TIP: Use Wood Conditioner to Reduce Blotching in Softwoods

Products sold as wood conditioner are washcoats usually made from varnish, though I have seen at least one that is an oil/varnish blend. A washcoat is a finish thinned to five-to-ten percent solids with the appropriate thinner. (Finishes are generally supplied with 20-to-30 percent solids.) In industry, the finish used is usually lacquer thinned with lacquer thinner. Wood conditioners can be fairly effective on softwoods like the pine shown in the accompanying picture. They aren’t as effective on hardwoods such as cherry. The purpose of the thinned-finish conditioner is to partially seal the wood, which means to partially stop up...

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The (Almost) Perfect Finish

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Water-based finishes have improved quite a bit over the past few years – to the point where they make an excellent finish for just about every woodworker. In particular, they offer a lot of advantages for DIYers and hobbyist woodworkers, especially those working in small shops. You can use a water-borne finish in place of just about any other film finish (varnish, polyurethane, lacquer) on just about any wood surface (furniture, cabinetry, trim work, and flooring). While it can be sprayed on, it's likely that most DIYers and hobbyists will brush it on, which is what I do. What is...

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Remove Watermarks With Steel Wool

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Watermarks can happen in all finishes after they have aged and become somewhat porous. The marks appear light gray to white and are almost always very superficial – that is, right at the surface of the finish. So one way to remove them that almost always works well is to abrade off the very top surface of the finish with fine steel wool or abrasive pad. Usually, the discoloration will be removed with very little effort, as shown in the two accompanying pictures. The downside of removing watermarks in this manner is that you may change the sheen of the...

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TIP: Successfully Spraying Varnish or Oil Paint

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The usual finishes that are sprayed are lacquer, shellac and water-based finish. These finishes dry fast, sometimes too fast in warm temperatures to successfully brush onto large surfaces. Spraying overcomes this problem. Oil-based varnish, including polyurethane varnish and oil paint, can also be sprayed, of course, because any thin liquid can be sprayed. But you need to be aware of a significant difference. Varnish dries much slower than the other finishes, and unlike lacquer, shellac and water-based finish, each coat should be allowed to fully dry before the next coat is sprayed. You may typically spray lacquer, for example, spray...

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TIP: Thin Coats vs. Thick, Which Is Better and Why?

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It’s common to hear the instruction that it’s better to apply several thin coats than one thick one. Why is this so? Or is it? What’s involved is drying time, nothing more. Thinner coats of all finishes dry faster than thicker coats. The difference is great enough that you can build the same thickness with several thin coats in less time than you can get that thickness with a thick coat. But the thick coat will eventually dry just as hard and perform just as well as many thin coats. Shellac and lacquer dry entirely by solvent evaporation. The solvent...

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