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Expert's Corner — water-based

TIP: Dating furniture by the finish used

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TIP: Dating furniture by the finish used

Because different finishes have been used at different times, it’s often possible to date furniture simply by the finish on it. In the 18th century and earlier, makers used whatever finish they had available, usually wax or linseed oil. If the maker lived near a port city, alcohol- or turpentine-soluble resins may have been available. By the 1820s, transportation had improved and shellac flakes, along with other alcohol-soluble resins, became widely available. Alcohol evaporates rapidly so these finishes dry fast and don’t collect dust. As a result, shellac became the overwhelmingly dominant finish used on almost all furniture and woodwork...

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TIP: Finishing Over Pine Knots

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The resin in pine knots contains solvents that will bleed into and through most paints and finishes. This can cause the paint or finish to remain sticky, and it can cause the orange color to bleed through as shown in the accompanying picture of white latex paint applied over pine. There are two types of products on the market that will block this resin: white pigmented primers and clear shellac. The most well known white primers are Kilz and BIN. The best clear shellac to use is Zinsser SealCoat because it has very little color and a longer shelf life...

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TIP: Tack Cloths and their Use

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TIP: Tack Cloths and their Use

Inexpensive tack cloths (tack rags) are available from most suppliers of paints and finishes. They are sticky rags meant for picking up dust, often sanding dust, from a surface just before applying a coat of finish. Here are some tips for using them. Limit their use to solvent finishes. They can cause fish-eye and bonding problems with water-based finishes because they leave an oily residue on the surface. Instead of a tack cloth, use a slightly water-dampened cloth to remove the dust when working with water-based finishes. Before using a tack cloth on sanded wood, remove the majority of the...

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Finishes for Wood Floors

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The two key considerations in choosing a wood-floor finish are resistance to scratches and the large surface to be covered. To stand up to abuse, you need a very durable finish, and to avoid filling the room with overspray that will settle and stick to the finish, you need one that dries slowly enough so it can be applied by hand. The two best choices are oil-based polyurethane and water-based polyurethane. Oil-based polyurethane is more durable than water-based, but it has a strong odor that hangs around for several days, and it has a slight orange coloring (usually referred to...

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TIP: Dealing with Bubbles in a Finish

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TIP: Dealing with Bubbles in a Finish

Bubbles in a finish are more likely from brushing than from spraying, though it’s possible to get bubbles in a sprayed finish if you have the air pressure turned up real high. Bubbles are caused by the turbulence created by the brush gliding over the surface much more than from shaking or stirring the finish. The problem is worse if your shop is hot or if the finish and wood are at different temperatures. Because some formulations bubble less than others, especially with varnishes and water-based finishes, you can also switch to another brand, which may reduce the problem. To...

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