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Expert's Corner — wood finishing

TIP: Shortcut for Color Confirmation

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TIP: Shortcut for Color Confirmation

Stains lighten as they dry, so you often see instructions to apply a coat of finish to see the true color you will get at the end. This isn’t necessary. You don’t have to let a stain dry and apply a coat or two of finish to see the color a stain will produce on the wood. There’s a much quicker method. All you need to do is look at the color while the stain is still damp on the wood—that is, right after you have wiped off the excess. This is the color you will get, and it holds...

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Preparation and Application – A Good Finish Requires Both

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Preparation is a huge part of finishing. Failing to prepare the wood will surely lead to a bad finish no matter how good your equipment or coating. So let’s talk first about sanding. You must start with a completely dry piece of wood. If you have stripped it, let it dry, preferably overnight. Then give the wood a light sanding. We suggest 180-grit sandpaper, or any grit up to a 220 will work just fine. Anything finer will affect the ability of the stain to penetrate into the wood, especially on closed-grain woods such as maple, cherry, etc. Even if...

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TIP: Lacquer Colors Vary

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TIP: Lacquer Colors Vary

Lacquer is a very versatile finish, especially because of its widely understood easy application in varying weather conditions. Not so widely understood is the range of colors—the amount of yellowing (or “oranging”) of the various types of lacquer. For example, nitrocellulose lacquer (on the left in the accompanying photo) adds a noticeable darkening or slight orange coloring to the wood. This can be very pleasing on dark and dark stained woods, but some find it objectionable on light woods such as maple and birch and on white pickled woods. In between is acrylic or “water-white” lacquer, which isn’t totally water...

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TIP: Crackle Lacquer

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TIP: Crackle Lacquer

Crackle lacquer is a manufactured lacquer product with so much solid material, usually silica, added that there isn’t enough binder (lacquer) remaining to glue all the solid particles together. This results in the lacquer cracking when it dries and shrinks. The usual way of applying a crackle-lacquer finish is to first apply a colored background, usually a pigmented lacquer coat. Then spray a coat of colored crackle lacquer, which cracks revealing the color underneath. Simply by moving your spray gun faster and slower and at greater and lesser distances from the workpiece, you can create a pleasing effect. You can control...

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TIP: Cherry Blotching

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TIP: Cherry Blotching

One of the most often asked questions among woodworkers concerns methods of avoiding blotching in cherry. The questions are encouraged by countless articles in magazines purporting to reveal the “secret” method. Inevitably, these articles are disappointing because there is no way to keep cherry from blotching except to conceal the problem by adding color to the finish—in effect, making a thin paint. This is what most furniture manufacturers do when finishing cherry, with the result that the wood is muddied and doesn’t look much like cherry. In fact, the only way to totally avoid blotching with a stain or clear...

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