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Newsletter #136

Learning From an Expert’s Trials Prevents Your Errors

This month I want to talk about learning and education. 
Sometimes we find our way through simple trial and error. Other times we are fortunate to have a friend or associate who will share knowledge or experience with us. Often industry experts are at trade shows and provide helpful information and there are of course a wealth of books and videos.
With the ever evolving internet we have education in front of us on any one of a number of topics.
From the comfort of our home, computer and large screen monitors we have closer access to “the experts” who can carry us step by step through the learning process of our desired skill.
At we try to bring you valued information from our writers each month. One of our colorful and knowledgeable writers is Charles Neil of Charles Neil Woodworking.
Charles is now sharing his years of experience with woodworking and finishing with lively online presentations to skillfully guide you through the process to achieve the very best results with your projects.
Who best to learn from than someone who has done this day in and day out for many years?
I wish I had this available to me when I was learning. Unfortunately it was before the days of the internet and today’s easy access to information.
I encourage you to take a look and avail yourself of this excellent learning experience.


Sr. Vice President
Apollo Sprayers International, Inc.


Product of the Month: Safecoat® Polyuraseal, High Gloss, Low Toxicity

Safecoat® Polyureseal BP is one of the highest quality, low toxicity, water-based clear gloss finishes available. Its exceptional durability and abrasion resistance, coupled with high solids, very low VOC and low odor, make it the clear alternative to conventional solvent and water-based polyurethanes in performance, without the toxicity. Safecoat® Polyureseal BP can be used on unfinished (or properly prepared and sanded previously finished) wooden surfaces such as floors, furniture and cabinetry, and is excellent for gym floors and auditoriums.

Low VOCs and a Many More Benefits

  • High solids, more film build, better flow, higher luster.
  • Comparable to conventional urethanes in performance without the toxicity.
  • Safely used by and for the chemically sensitive.
  • Fights indoor air pollution, seals in the outgassing from the substrate.
  • Very low VOC content, meets or exceeds all federal and state air quality regulations, including California.
  • Contains no formaldehyde.

Finishing Feature Article: Aging and Antiquing Wood, Part II, by Charles Neil

Last month we featured an article by woodworker extraordinaire, Charles Neil, showing how to
 create antique finishes. Below is the second part of the article. Before reading the article, take a look at Charles’s latest project, a gorgeous coffee table he said he made from “junk wood.” It looks so far from being “junk” and is really a stunning piece of sculpture.

We love his carved “bird’s nest” below the table. 

Charles loves to experiment with finishes, and use his knowledge to play with techniques, wood and coatings.  We can all learn from his ideas. Here are some great tips from a great finisher:

This is a piece of 8/4 cherry just to show the technique. I like to take a power carver or carving chisel and “bark” the edges of slabs READ MORE

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Two Smart Tricks for Successful French Polishing

There are two very useful tricks to getting good results when French polishing.comet-s-tail.jpg

The first is to achieve a one-foot-or-less “comet’s tail” trailing the pad as you move it over the surface—as shown in the accompanying picture. This tail is made by the alcohol in the French-polishing solution evaporating through the oil (also in the solution). If the tail is too long, the pad is too wet, and you’ll probably damage the surface. When the tail gets really short, just a couple of inches, this is the signal that you need to add more shellac, alcohol and oil (I use mineral oil) to the pad.

The second is to slowly reduce to zero the ratio of shellac to denatured-alcohol solvent as you near the end. There is still shellac in your pad, so you will still be depositing some shellac on the surface, but your “rag tracks,” which are the rag equivalent of brush marks, will be reduced to almost nothing.

I find it helpful to have two containers, one with two-pound-cut shellac and the other with denatured alcohol. I begin the French polishing by applying a little from each to the pad, together with a couple of finger dabs of mineral oil. As I progress, I reduce the amount of shellac and increase the amount of alcohol, until I’m adding only alcohol.

Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: If Stain Gets Wood Too Dark 

There are two broad categories of stain: dye that is dissolved in a liquid, and dye and/or pigment combined with a binder. The first are usually called “dye” stains and are sold either as powders for you to do the dissolving, or are already dissolved in a liquid solvent. The second are often called “wiping stains,” “pigment stains,” “oil stains,” “water-based stains” or “lacquer stains” and are the common stains you buy in cans at home centers and paint stores.

If a dye stain gets the wood too dark, try removing some of the dye by wiping with its solvent. The powder dyes labeled Lockwood and Moser (which are the same) are easier to lighten than the liquid dyes labeled “NGR” (non-grain-raising) or Transtint (which are also the same; Transtint is just concentrated).

If a pigment or wiping stain (those that contain a varnish, lacquer or water-based binder) gets the wood too dark, try removing some of the color by wiping with the thinner for the stain or with lacquer thinner or acetone. These stains are much more difficult to lighten than dye stains. 

In both cases, you can also scrub the surface with steel wool or a synthetic abrasive pad together with the solvent or thinner for the stain to remove more color. Try to keep the scrubbing even over the surface so you maintain a roughly even color overall.

With dye stains, you can usually bleach out most of the color using household bleach or swimming-pool bleach. It won’t be possible to remove all the color, however, without many applications, sanding between each.