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Expert's Corner

How to Choose a Finish: Part II

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How to Choose a Finish: Part II

For an overview of choosing a finish please refer to “How to Choose a Finish: Part I.” To better understand finishes and their differences, it’s very helpful to put them into categories by the way they cure. You may think the resins—polyurethane, alkyd, acrylic, etc.—make the big difference in finishes, but they don’t. Consider, for example, that polyurethane resin is used in varnish, water-based finish, two-part finish and in some lacquers. If you have used any two of these finishes, you know they are very different. The curing process the finish goes through is far more significant for understanding each...

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How to Choose a Finish: Part I

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How to Choose a Finish: Part I

The first step in finishing a project (beyond preparing the wood, of course) is to choose the finish you want to use. In fact, it's wise to make this choice even before starting on the project because it may influence the wood you choose. There are seven broad categories of finishes to choose from: Oil and blends of oil and varnish (often called "Danish" oil) Varnish, which includes polyurethane varnish, spar varnish, wiping varnish (varnish thinned about half with mineral spirits) and gel varnish Shellac, which can be clear or amber and with its natural wax included or removed Lacquer,...

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Caring for Natural Bristle Brushes used with Water Based Paints

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Caring for Natural Bristle Brushes used with Water Based Paints

1. Always wash a new brush before you use it.  I use Dawn Liquid Detergent in the shop, but you can use most any detergent that doesn’t contain bleach.  Bleach will dry out your bristles, just like your hair. I squeeze the detergent into the palm of my hand and then carefully mash my brush bristles into the soap. Rinse with cool water. This will help remove any loose bristles before you begin to paint.  This step will prevent those pesky hairs from ending up on your canvas, chair, or trim.  Once you have washed your brush smack it on the...

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Enhance the Appearance of Wood With Stains

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Enhance the Appearance of Wood With Stains

While there are some woodworkers who might cringe at the thought of staining wood, there are good reasons why you might want to do so. Some lighter colored woods, such as poplar, alder, beech, and birch do tend to look somewhat bland, and can benefit from a dash of color. Who hasn't bought a load of wood, only to find, after milling, a disappointing variation in the color - staining can even out the tone of the wood. When building new furniture or cabinetry to match existing pieces, staining might be the only way to blend the two. And, with...

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TIP: Durable Finish for Enclosed Spaces

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TIP: Durable Finish for Enclosed Spaces

A key factor in choosing a finish for an enclosed space such as a drawer, cabinet interior, humidor or a small room such as a wine or liquor cellar is residual odor. All types of varnishes and lacquers outgas smelly solvents for many days or weeks depending on the thickness applied, the temperature, and the air movement. If you can’t allow that much time, you need to choose another finish. The two that will leave the least residual odor are shellac and water-based finish. Both contain solvents that evaporate fairly slowly (alcohol in shellac and glycol ether in water-based finish),...

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