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Expert's Corner — wood finishing

Rejuvenating Old Finishes: Three Tips in One

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Rejuvenating Old Finishes: Three Tips in One

Think of wood finishes as plastics. Depending on how broadly you define “plastic,” this is exactly what they are. And just like all plastics, finishes deteriorate over time—faster in bright light and heat. First the finish dulls; then it begins crazing and cracking. As the deterioration gets worse, the finish loses its primary function of slowing moisture (liquid and vapor) exchange. Excessive moisture exchange leads to veneer cracking, joints and veneer separating, splits in wood and warping. A deteriorated finish also looks bad. Old furniture with deteriorated finishes usually end up in city landfills. This is the reason the message...

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Exploring the New Generation of Water-Based Finishes

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“If a true water-based finish line is produced correctly, every ingredient used in the manufacturing will be dispersible in plain water.” Water-based finishes have been around for many years. Much like the latex house paints of years gone by, they have been undergoing constant changes and improvements. Several years ago, any self-respecting painting contractor would only use the old oil-based paints with linseed oil primers. But, in today's commercial house painting industry, almost no one is using these oil-based products. Painting contractors have switched to the highly improved water-based products. Indeed, water-based products have largely taken over that market. In...

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TIP: Shellac and Fish Eye

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TIP: Shellac and Fish Eye

Fish eye is cratering or ridging in the finish right after application (brush or spray). It is caused by silicone in the wood. The silicone is an oil that is commonly included in furniture polishes, hand creams and other household products. The oil is very slick and prevents the finish from leveling out. All finishes are susceptible to fish eye if the silicone contamination is great enough. But for most situations shellac isn’t affected by the silicone. A coat of shellac will block the silicone so another finish can be applied on top without a problem. On this sample, I...

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TIP: Door and Drawer Edges Under Sinks

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TIP: Door and Drawer Edges Under Sinks

Especially when spraying finishes, it’s common to get too little finish on the edges of cabinet doors and drawers. If these doors and drawers are installed under a sink in a kitchen or bathroom, splashed water will break through the thin finish, causing it to peel. There’s rarely anything you can do to fix this damage short of stripping and refinishing. So it’s important to get enough finish on the edges to begin with. The most common method of spraying doors and drawers is to lay them flat and spray from above. Typically, the edges are sprayed at a 45°...

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TIP: Deteriorated Finish

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TIP: Deteriorated Finish

It’s common to see old finishes that have bubbled up in areas where they are touched by oily human skin or perspiration. These areas include chair arms and backs and around door and drawer pulls and knobs. The example shown is the crest rail of an old dining chair. Oily skin and perspiration are slightly acidic, and the acid breaks down the finish over many years. If you catch the problem early, you can sometimes sand or steel wool through the deteriorated part at the surface of the finish to reveal good finish underneath. You could then apply another coat...

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