Reply by OSU55

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Posted on Give a newbie some finishing tips!

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2385 posts in 2470 days

#1 posted 09-25-2014 04:26 PM

You have already made a giant leap in improving the finish of your project – you are considering it before you ever start the project. I find it interesting folks will spend weeks or months designing and building a project just right and then just slap on some simple finish. I view the final finish as 1/2 of the project.

The best recommendation is to educate yourself on finishes and finishing. The next giant leap is learning that finishes and finishing is science, not some secret black art, and education will do that. You don’t have to be a scientist or engineer. I highly recommend Bob Flexner’s “Understanding Wood Finishing” and Jeff Jewitt’s “Great Wood Finishes” or “Tauntons Complete Illustrated Guide To Finishing” by Jeff. They differ in some info and have different preferences. Both have info on waterborne finishes, and provide just enough finish chemistry knowledge so you know why some things work and other things don’t. Both of these guys made a living finishing furniture. Many praise Charles Neil’s new book. I have not read it, but knowing Charles style it is probably not technical enough to fully understand the chemical aspects.

There are so many ways to achieve what you want that it is difficult to answer the questions. I prefer to finish any glued joints after assembly. Typically tops, doors, shelves – anything that bolts or screws together gets finished then assembled. I design furniture with the finishing process in mind.

Do you spray, brush, or wipe finishes? How scratch resistant do you want it? Is water (condensation from drinks) a concern? Chemical resistance? Fumes during finishing? Filled grain? How much film thickness do you want? The books I mentioned cover all of these aspects and allow you to make decisions on how to proceed, and what you may want to do in the future for other projects.

Probably the easiest and cheapest is wipe on, as long as you don’t want a lot of protection/film thickness. For a “close to the grain” finish I use solvent Poly diluted 25-50% (any brand works for me), keep the surface wet for 5-10 minutes with a brush, and wipe off. Let dry 4-6 hrs, do another coat. Before the final coat, very lightly sand nibs with 600. If I want some film thickness, I will use a very fine brush to apply a thinned final coat. The poly will pop the grain and add some light amber color. Sheen has a lot to with popping the grain, the more gloss the more the grain will pop. This is just as good, as easy, and cheaper than all the danish oil, watco, and other oil finishes that are just thinned urethane finishes.

I love shellac, but it’s a challenge to do large surfaces like a table top by brush. Water and chemical resistance is not very strong, and you would have to add flatting agents or rub the gloss down.

At any rate, welcome and good luck!

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