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Expert's Corner — woodfinishing

Ebonized Finishes

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Ebonize is a fancy word for “make it black” To be honest, when I read all the concoctions that folks use to achieve a black color onwood, I get a chuckle, it’s amazing. I think the most popular one is using vinegar and 0000 steel wool. The process is to put the steel wool in a jar of vinegar and allow the acid in the vinegar to rust and eat away the steel wool forming a black liquid. My experience with this is that it’s inconsistent. The acid in the vinegar can also alterthe color of the wood and a...

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TIP: Shellac for Holdout

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TIP: Shellac for Holdout

Shellac is often recommended as a sealer, with one of the justifications being that it provides “holdout” so fewer coats of finish then need to be applied to get the same overall thickness. This is correct only if you are applying lacquer over the shellac, as shown in the first accompanying picture. I applied a coat of shellac to the right side of this panel and a coat of nitrocellulose lacquer to the left side. Then I applied a coat of lacquer to the entire panel. There is a little better build on the right side with the shellac sealer...

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TIP: Getting a Do-over - Removing an Application Problem

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During application of a finish, whether by rag, brush or spray, there are sometimes problems so severe that you would like to remove what you have just applied and start over. You can do this fairly easily with oil and varnish finishes, with somewhat more difficulty using water-based finishes, and not at all with shellac and lacquer finishes without removing all previous coats down to the wood. With oil finishes, you may have as long as an hour to remove the finish without damaging the coats below. Use mineral spirits (paint thinner). With varnish (including polyurethane varnish), you may have...

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TIP: Spraying Outside

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One solution for spraying your project when you don’t have a spray booth or adequate exhaust in you shop is to spray outside. There are some conditions, however, for getting good results. First, you need to pick a day with temperatures in the high sixties to low eighties. Colder will cause the finish to take much longer to dry and this will create more time for debris and bugs to land on and stick to the finish. Hotter will cause the finish to dry too fast, which may lead to dry spray—the finish drying before it lands on the object....

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Tip: When Finishes Craze from Body Sweat

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All finishes craze—that is, develop small cracks—as they age, especially if they are exposed to a lot of sunlight. But there’s another type of crazing, and it can happen much faster. This is crazing caused by body sweat. You commonly see crazing of this type around cabinet-door pulls and drawer handles, and on chair backs, arms and seats. The picture shown is a close-up from the crest rail of a chair. This crazing is caused by the acids in body sweat slowly breaking down the finish. The finish softens and becomes dirty as dirt sticks to it. In severe cases...

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