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Newsletter #158


    Greetings from Bill Boxer, Sr. Vice President, Apollo Sprayers International, Inc   

wrb-0279-00049-cropped.jpg   Recently, woodworker extraordinaire, Charles Neil, this month’s contributing writer, approached me with a topic.

He asked what my thoughts were on all the bad advice, misinformation and cheap products relating to woodworking and finishing that is so easily accessible on the net. I must admit that my face lit up and I broke into a big smile when I read the note.

I gave him an unconditional go ahead. This subject has always been one that is close to me and one that I have “carefully” approached in my own past writings. I welcome this month’s article by Charles, and will take a moment to express a few thoughts on this topic.

  • First, there are many excellent and reliable sources of information on woodworking. The internet has truly created an expanded forum for everyone and certainly this information is easily accessible from our close at hand mobile phones and tablets to our PC’s.
  • At the same time “everyone” has become an expert and often feel free to provide comments and advice on the many blogs and forums.
  • My only advice is to be careful where you get your information and from whom. It can mean the difference between success and failure.

While we’re talking about advice and pet peeves, here is another one of mine.

I know we all look for advice from the internet when product shopping. Not only blogs, but selling sites provide a forum for customers to provide comments on service, experience and the product purchased. It doesn’t take much for a customer who may have had a negative experience to post mean and nasty comments.

This is most unfortunate when often most companies go out of their way to resolve any issues a customer may have.
In the past I’ve commented on my concerns when “so called experts” evaluate a tool or product and often focus on aspects that may or may not be related to the performance of that tool or product. Case in point: I’ve seen turbospray systems evaluated on the sound of the motor or price of the machine. While these can be considerations, in my mind the most important factor is performance and results followed by overall quality, reliability and customer service.
To summarize my advice:

  • When accepting advice, evaluate who the “expert” is and where the advice is coming from.
  • When you read a negative comment, evaluate how many negative comments there are vs. how many positives you can come up with. Maybe this tells you something about the comment source.
  • Last, and something I’ve always believed: Buyer beware! When it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. You do get what you pay for.

To Charles Neil, thanks for taking on this topic and sharing with our readers. 

      bill boxer signature


Finishing Feature Article: by Charles Neil:  



Knowing the Difference …Social Media …Maybe Not
By Charles Neil

I get what seems like a gazillion emails, some asking for direction/advice, but it seems now days it’s more from folks who got advice from one of the numerous DIY, Social Media sites or some forum with lots of keyboard experts and they have a mess on their hands. I have to be honest, some of the things they come up with make me cringe, especially when it comes to finishing. It’s unbelievable.

One lady wanted to redo her counter tops so she got some gel stain It wasn’t dark enough so she added some paint, then proceeded to put on 3 coats with a paint brush, let it set up, then put 4 coats of water base poly over it. All in 2 days. After a week or so the “poly” is coming off in sheets, and if she sat a hot pan on it, it melted the rest of the finish. Her question to me: what could she put on them to cure the problem? Now the sad part of this is that she went on a social media site that showed her techniques and how to do it. There were numerous comments and people were trying the same thing. She never went back and told them it failed. My issue is the poor folks who did the same thing. I mean the photos made it look good, up until it didn’t. When I explained to her she had to strip all that stuff off, and start over, she quickly told me she didn’t think I knew what I was talking about. Sigh!!!

I get tons of this stuff, some are so absurd I don’t answer because it would take so much emailing to answer. Another story I am fond of is the guy who built some solid body guitars out of tiger maple and used mineral oil as the finish. His question to me was “I have about 10 coats on them and they really look great, but after a few weeks they look terrible and I can’t seem to get the high gloss finish I want. “ This was what he was told to use on one of the woodworking forums.

Not sure if that one is as good as the guy who had put 42 coats of thinned boiled linseed oil on a walnut dresser, and he too could not get that hard glossy finish. He tried rubbing it out but it didn’t work. Again, advice from a woodworking forum.

Below are cabinets Charles was asked to troubles shoot. There is an oil based stain that blotched and the writer  is asking if a water based top coat will fix it. 

                                                    charles-blotchy-1.jpg      charles-blolchy-2.jpg

My all-time favorite stories are the folks who get an “HVLP spray system.” They go to a box store, some low end tool store or an online retailer and purchase a spray system costing somewhere between $99.00 and $299.00 and think they are going to conquer the world like a pro. The really sad part is in many cases their woodworking is quite good. They often find that performance promises end up in disappointment with the results are far less than expected or desired.

I had one guy who made a Lowboy with carved fans and ball and claw feet, then got that cheap sprayer and rather than experiment a little he loaded it up with some water base “poly” and began. He too was after a fully level pristine finish. It was African Mahogany which is pretty porous. No grain filler, nothing. Just put that baby in his drive way and started spraying. Oh I forgot to mention, it was a hot summer day and they had a lot of mosquitoes.
Speaking of finishing, a guy in Florida spraying solvent based lacquer outside in direct sun light and of course it blistered. He was mortified, so he got a piece of plastic trash bag and covered it. Took it in his garage and let it sit, his question initially was how to get the “welded on” trash bag off the table.

The latest fad is “pallet” furniture. Now I have no issue with restaging, repurposing, or whatever it’s called. In my world it was called “repair and refinish” and I will be the first to agree that a nice coat of paint or a piece properly refinished is a great thing. I also do not have an issue with folks using pallet wood, but I do get a kick out of reading some of the “quite serious” instruction on disassembling those pallets, not to mention on how to get them out of the dumpster and in the car. It seems the best way to disassemble them, is to go buy a reciprocating saw, then get some metal blades and saw the nails. Then you can more easily drive the nails out of “the board.”

Ok so you go out and drag home a bunch of pallets. No problem. You saw all the boards off. Next you saw the boards into whatever it is you need, and either screw or nail them together. Did the thought ever occur that pallets are made from green wood, and are going to crack and split when they get inside for a while, that is of course unless they have air dried out in the elements. Then they could have mold ,mildew and odds are they are still not dry. I mean at least wash them and stack the wood to dry before using it, and bringing it into your home. One of the top questions I get on pallets is how you fill the black screw/nail holes so they don’t show.

I have said all this to say, it’s like the old cliché “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Woodworking and finishing are not as easy as many try to present, even the TV commercials play into it. You see the brush applying a coat of stain and it’s making the wood beautiful… People actually believe that is all there is to it.

I had a guy who bought some water base dye and used it. He was horrified it didn’t have a nice “shine”. He didn’t know the difference between a dye and a stain. The piece was a very nice cherry sofa table. As I am sitting here writing this, I got an email from a guy who is trying to spray latex paint thru a 29.00 spray gun, with about a ½ HP, 5 gallon compressor. You know the kind. As soon as you pull the trigger the compressor cuts on and sounds like your bicycle when you were a kid, and took a clothes pin and attached a playing card so it “ thudded “ in the spokes…
The issue is the paint is too thick, the gun, the small nozzle and needle are too small and the compressor doesn’t have enough power or volume to even begin to spray it. But some guy on a forum told him it would work fine. So… I check on the forum for the guy who gave the advice. He has been there for 3 years… he makes wooden spoons… My guy has 32 cabinet doors, all the interior trim and 12 passage way doors, so now he is off to get a 5 stage spray system with a 1.8 nozzle/needle and now he will be able to be successful.

When you’re getting advice from social media, be very careful. While there is a lot of really good creative projects and ideas out there, there are many that are not. The hard part is knowing the difference. In the case of forums, check out the posters profile. In many cases the forums will have folks who answer a lot of questions, but still check out their profiles or Google them , just be sure you’re getting sound advice. Turn to the real experts for good advice. They are always happy to share.

                                                          . charles-neil.jpg

                                                                                 Charles Neil Woodworking

I think the safest way is to go with the pros and folks who have been around a long time. You don’t survive long selling bad products or giving bad advice, so the folks who have stood the test of time are a good bet and again if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and when it comes to buying tools, sprayers or what have you, just remember if you buy good quality, well performing equipment, you only have to cry once.


                                                                                        Charles Neil Woodworking

Master woodworker Chip Wade appears on HGTV’s Ellen’s Design Challenge. In the newest episode he sprayed 5000 board/ft with his Apollo Precision 5.



                               Products of the Month:

 Zip Sanding Products by Gator



Every finisher is unique, and their approaches and techniques are just as individual. That’s why we carry an array of sanding blocks – each ergonomically designed for an easy grip, with a hook and loop fastening system provides for easy paper changes. Check out our range and your finish will be smooth and easy.

Here is a terrific video demonstrating the Zip Sanding Products

And here are links to the individual sanding products on

AutoZip Extra Fine Waterproof Refill, 8pk

AutoZip Kit 1-pack

Zip Sander 1 and Auto Sander Plus a 6 Pack Refill 320 & 8 Pack Refill of 600

Zip Sander Step 1-2-3 Kit

Zip Sander with Refill

And while you are sanding,use our GENUINE APOLLO TURBINE BLOW OFF TOOL                                        


                                             DIRECTS TURBINE AIR TO BLOW YOUR WORK AREA CLEAN


“3M Paint Preparation System™”

 An economical and innovative system for mixing and spraying finishing and coating materials with your pressure-fed spray gun.



Only one PPS™ cup for mixing and spraying
Enables painters to mix less paint
Up to 70% savings of cleaning solvent
Closed system – no outside contamination
Faster system – from mixing to disposal
Less operator exposure to solvents and reduction in VOCs
Spray gun functions at any angle


Now there is a new idea to let you quickly and effectively dry doors and shelves using a minimum of space. Because this system works vertically, is modular and highly portable.  ERECTA-RACK





flexner.jpg    Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Ghosting    

Ghosting occurs when you sand or rub through one layer of finish into the one below,                                                

as shown in the accompanying picture.

You can recognize ghosting when the problem area you’re trying to remove keeps getting bigger rather than smaller—like sanding through veneer.


The term ghosting is the traditional name for this phenomenon. As it starts to appear, you see the “ghost” of the finish layer underneath. It is also called “layering,” which describes the phenomenon well, and “witness lines,” a relatively new term, which doesn’t. Nevertheless, it seems that witness lines has become the favored term in many recent wood-finishing articles and books.

Ghosting doesn’t occur with shellac and lacquer finishes because each coat dissolves into the previous one so that all coats become one. Dissolving doesn’t happen with varnishes, including polyurethane varnish, or with most water-based and catalyzed finishes. The separate coats form separate layers that are vulnerable to ghosting.

Sometimes you can disguise ghosting by rubbing with an abrasive such as steel wool. The problem is still there, but the scratches hide it.

The better solution is to apply another coat of finish after you have removed all the problems that caused you to sand deep in the first place. Then level and rub out this new coat without going through it.


Finishing Tip by Bob Flexner: Testing for Shellac

Almost all furniture and woodwork finished between the 1820s and 1920s was finished with shellac. But if you want to test to be sure,

here’s the way to do it.testing-for-shellac.jpg

Put a little denatured alcohol on your finger and dab it onto an inconspicuous area of the finish, as shown in the accompanying picture. If the surface gets sticky or if the finish comes off on your finger, the finish is shellac. Shellac dissolves in alcohol, so you could use the alcohol to strip the finish if that is your intention, instead of using paint stripper.