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Expert's Corner — wax

TIP: Finishing over waxed wood

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It’s not all that common, but sometimes you come across furniture, cabinets or woodwork that has a wax finish, and nothing else. There may be cases where you want to coat over with a more water- and scratch-resistant finish. How do you do this without having to go to the trouble of stripping the surface? The first step is to remove most of the wax. Do this by washing with a mineral-spirits, naphtha or acetone solvent. Wash, don’t just wipe. That is, soak a cloth or paper towel with the solvent and wet the wood well. Then dry it quickly...

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TIP: Differences between shellac and lacquer

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The principle differences between nitrocellulose lacquer and shellac are ease of application and their ability to block off problems in the wood. Both finishes are evaporative finishes, meaning that they dry entirely by solvent evaporation; there is no crosslinking as there is with varnish and catalyzed finishes. As a result, both lacquer and shellac are more vulnerable to being damaged by coarse or sharp objects, heat, solvents, acids and alkalis. Shellac is more vulnerable than lacquer to being damaged by alcohol spills, of course, but keep in mind that beer, wine and mixed drinks are usually very watered down, so...

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Finishing Nightmares

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Ironically I just finished making a DVD by the same title, but that is not what this is about. I get a lot of emails from folks who have tried to get a good finish by following poor advice, but usually it is the result of poor products, they just don’t know it. There is an old cliché, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and nowhere does this prove truer than in finishing. I got an email from a guy who was trying to get a fully filled, high gloss finish on a red oak...

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TIP: Caring for Crazed Finishes

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TIP: Caring for Crazed Finishes

Old crazed finishes are very fragile. You can reduce potential damage to these finishes with slick furniture polish or paste wax. But as you can see in the picture, liquid furniture polish (left) highlights the crazing and makes it look worse, while paste wax (right) adds a little shine and scratch resistance without highlighting the crazing. So paste wax is the better furniture-care product for crazed surfaces. (There is a small area in the middle with nothing on it.)

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TIP: Removing Wax Smear

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TIP: Removing Wax Smear

Paste wax is easy enough to apply. Simply wipe it on the surface. The problem comes in removing the excess wax, because if you don’t remove all the excess it leaves a smear rather than a shine, as shown in a somewhat exaggerated form in the picture. The trick is to use a clean cloth or lambs-wool pad for the removal—with the emphasis on “clean.” If you continue to wipe off the excess with a cloth or pad that has become loaded with wax, you will just be moving the wax around the surface rather than transferring it to the...

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