Adventures in Japanning #3: Let's welcome Mr. Murphy (and his law)

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Blog entry by JayT posted 10-13-2012 08:15 PM 6317 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Testing blends and first attempt Part 3 of Adventures in Japanning series Part 4: Back at square one »

When we left off, the first coat of Japanning had been applied and allowed to cure. The next day, here is what I had.

Even given 24 hours in a very hot and dry Kansas summer, the finish was still a bit tacky. The few internet posts I had found said that you needed to either bake the finish or allow it to cure 30 days or so. A couple also mentioned applying two coats before doing either of those, so I pressed on with another light coat and let it set overnight.

In order to try and help the curing process, I decided to leave the plane outside in the sun the next day for several hours on a 100 degree afternoon. The hope was that I could cut the 30 day cure time down quite a bit. While the resulting finish was more cured than just air drying inside the shop, I ran into a new issue—brush marks!

If you look at the above picture, you can see the slight brush marks from the first coat. Instead of the second coat filling and leveling those out, as I had hoped it would, it amplified them. No photo of those. I was so disgusted that it didn’t even cross my mind to take a picture.

This poor experience led to several attempts to redo the process that the only thing they accomplished was to allow Murphy’s law to intervene. Using another plane, I tried thinning the mix to get better flow. That was accomplished, but it also resulted in sag and bubbling around any vertical surface. I tried allowing the plane to cure in the sun after every coat, but still ended up with brush marks and a finish that, while not tacky any longer, also wasn’t as hard as necessary. A couple other ideas also backfired, so finally it was time to for:

I stripped the two planes I had been using, put everything on the workbench and just had to walk away for a few days before starting over.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

5 comments so far

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 4697 days

#1 posted 10-13-2012 09:16 PM

This is an awesome thread. Please don’t give up!!

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 4218 days

#2 posted 10-13-2012 09:23 PM

Try and stay positive, a few days away should do you good. I have never done japanning on planes so I cant really offer any advice… One thought or question rather, did you sand between coats at all? I would think if you sanded the japanning after the first coat it should smooth the brush marks out a bit. Once you build up the finish coats the brush marks should become less and less noticeable if you sand after every coat… I have never worked with the stuff though so thats only a thought..

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Don W's profile

Don W

20287 posts in 3905 days

#3 posted 10-13-2012 10:47 PM

Oh please stick with it JayT. It sounds like you’re saving me an awful lot of work :-)

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View JayT's profile


6448 posts in 3549 days

#4 posted 10-13-2012 11:14 PM

Not to worry, guys. I didn’t set out to write a blog, so wasn’t posting as I was working. This part of the process was actually in July and August. I have a difficult time giving up on anything until I conquer or at least understand it better. Spoiler alert—there is a happy ending :-)

Dan, the reason I didn’t sand between coats here was that the japanning mixture was too tacky. Even with “baking” it in the Kansas summer sun, it wasn’t hard enough to sand. Once I started over, there were several changes that made the end result turn out much better.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View mafe's profile


13690 posts in 4427 days

#5 posted 10-29-2012 06:16 PM

Hmmmm bad luck for now…
I am back looking now, just been much to busy in reallife…
So wonderful you share your experince like this.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

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