FINISHING - Popular Woodworking Magazine
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FINISHING - Popular Woodworking Magazine

FinishingFormulasSome woodworkers keep a tight lid ontheir recipes, but we pour it all out.Some say that finishing can bea “ruination of a nicely builtpiece of furniture.” Well, tobuild that piece you have to studythe different techniques and haveaccess to good plans. Plans andprocedures are now shared openlyby most woodworkers. But whenit comes to finishing, some ofthe best woodworkers slip intoa secret back room and never lettheir exact procedures see thelight of day.How are you supposed tobecome a better finisher if you arenot shown the techniques and formulas?That’s why we are “blowingthe doors off” this little-sharedbut highly important aspect ofwoodworking. This article is anall-access pass to the finishingmethods I’ve used for a numberof projects from my books andmagazine articles.Sand Less Than You ThinkAll finishing starts with the sanding,and I think that many of ussand more than necessary. Onceyou move to a paper that’s finerthan #180 grit, you begin to closethe wood pores, which will affectthe stain’s penetration. Becausethese stains depend on soakinginto the wood to obtain the bestresults, sanding too fine shouldbe avoided. I hope that’s musicto your ears because most of uscomplain about sanding.What’s important is to removeall imperfections, so while youdon’t need to go past #180 grit,you do need to sand effectively togain the upper hand. I use a random-orbitsander and begin with#120 grit, if necessary, and movethrough the #150 and #180 grits,followed up by hand sanding with#180 grit, making sure to move inthe wood’s grain direction. Also,use sandpaper to knock off anysharp edges on the project becausethese will show wear first.A Homemade Wipe-onFinish for a Clear TopcoatOnce the sanding is completewe can move on. Some projectsrequire that you add only a protectiveclear topcoat. I have usedthe commercial products thatare available for a wipe-on finish,but I keep returning to my ownmixture. Why? It’s cheap and easyby Glen D. HueyComments or questions? Contact Glen at 513-531-2690 ext. 1293or by Al Parrish70Popular Woodworking Month 2007

to make with ingredients from ahardware store.My mixture is one-third turpentine,one-third spar varnish(a marine finish) and one-thirdboiled linseed oil (sometimesabbreviated as BLO). Make sureit’s boiled – not raw – linseed oil.I mix enough in a batch for about1 1 ⁄ 2 applications to my piece.The turpentine thins the mixture,which allows it to seep intowood pores. As the oil/varnishdries, the first coat acts to bridgebetween the pores. Successiveapplications then allow the finishto build. Keep the surface of yourwork wet for five minutes beforewiping away any excess.After the first coat, you needto allow the mixture to thickenbefore wiping the excess. Look forthe consistency of honey. Oncethe mixture dries to that consistency,wipe away any excess beforeit dries completely. Create moremixture as needed for the nextcoat. But at this stage add onlyequal parts of the varnish and oil,leave out the turpentine. You don’tneed to have any soaking into thegrain at this point.Also, there is no need tosand the surface between coatsprovided you have wiped all theexcess off your work. The beautyof this oil/varnish blend is that ifyou missed wiping an area, you justneed to go back and sand that spotbefore applying another coat. It isa forgiving topcoat. Apply threecoats to your work to build up thefinish; a fourth coat will enhancethe sheen.Dying to Add ColorIf I need to first color the piece,I use Moser’s aniline dye (availablefrom Anilinedyes are soluble in water, oilor alcohol. I use water-based dyebecause it’s easy to mix and toclean up. In addition, the watersolubledyes are the most resistantof the dyes to fading in sunlight.The alcohol-soluble dye driestoo fast, leading to the possibilityof lapping marks. And theoil-soluble dyes can cause severalproblems, including choosinga compatible topcoat as wellas combustion concerns.The mixing of the dye is a veryscientific procedure. Simply mixone ounce of powder to four cupsof water. Most manufacturers recommendmixing in that ratio, ormaking the stain twice as strongby mixing two ounces of stain intothe same amount of water. In myexperience, there is no reason tomix the stronger solution.If your tap water is high inany one chemical, such as lime,use bottled water to reduce anychances of the chemicals affectingthe stain’s color. But generally, Iuse plain tap water. That’s it!Heat the water until it’s simmering(you should see small bubblesrising from the bottom of thepan). Place the powder into anopaque container; I use an emptyorange juice jug to minimize thereaction to sunlight. Then add thewater when it reaches temperature.Replace the lid tightly andshake the mixture. Do this carefully.Pay attention to the lid. I’vehad one loosen as I began to shake– not a pretty sight. Some instructionssay it’s necessary to strainthe stain prior to use, but I’ve notfound that to be necessary.Won’t the water-based stainraise the wood’s grain when youapply it? Yes, the grain of your piecewill raise – so you need to trick thewood into believing that this hasalready happened before you applythe solution. Use a water-soakedsponge or cloth to wet the entireproject, then allow it to dry andlightly sand with #180 grit, knockingdown the raised grain.In applying the dye my rule isto saturate the project. This is whyI recommend you purchase a highvolume low pressure (HVLP) spraysystem, or spray gun of some type,to apply the dye. HVLP systemsare reasonably priced and willmake your finishing a snap.You can apply dye with a brush(in fact you should stain any drawerswith a brush) but to stain anentire piece with a brush is moredifficult. If you plan to brush yourfinishes I would keep the projectson the small side.The staining begins withany drawers in your project. Usea foam brush to apply the stainin an even coat. Only stain thedrawer fronts. Don’t stain any partof the actual drawer box. Stainingand finishing the interior parts ofthe drawer will hinder the slidingof the drawer and not allow anynaturally occurring patina. Usethe edge of the dovetails as yourcut-off point for staining.With the stain applied to adrawer front, set the first draweraside and start staining the next.As you set aside the second drawer,apply another coat of color to thefirst drawer. This method allowsthe drawer fronts to obtain thesame depth of color that the casewill achieve during the processof spraying.As for the carcase or any projectthat has no drawers, spray thedye onto your piece until it dripsfrom the project and the piece isThe most effectiveway to applythe stain to adrawer frontwithout gettingthe interior of thedrawer coveredis to use a foambrush.Any case can be stained with a high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) system.Flood the surface when applying stain. Let the stain soak into the wood inorder to get the best 71

totally saturated. You want to seepooling on the flat surfaces. Onceyou have given it a good soaking,let it sit for five minutes and wipeaway any excess stain. If you doSuppliesAll three of Glen’s books areavailable at a discount tomembers of WoodWorker’sBook Club (woodworkersbookclub.comor 386-246-3404),from Popular WoodworkingBooks (, clickon “woodworking” or 800-448-0915) or from your localbookstore.• “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime”(#70533; Popular WoodworkingBooks)• “Building Fine Furniture”(#70593; Popular WoodworkingBooks)• “Glen Huey’s Illustrated Guideto Building Period Furniture”(#70722; Popular WoodworkingBooks)Woodworker’s Supply800-645-9292• Moser’s Aniline DyeWoodcraft Supply800-535-4482• Behlen Wool-LubeBlonde shellac, garnet shellacMohawk Finishing Products800-545-0047• glazeSherwin-Williams800-524-5979• Sherwin-Williams lacquer andlacquer sanding sealerOlde Century Colors800-222-3092• Olde Century Colors paintsRockler800-279-4441 or• Briwaxnot have any to wipe away, youdid not saturate the piece!Now the warning – a fresh, wetstain looks great. In a few hours,after the stain has dried completely,you may feel the piece isruined because of the dull, lacklusterappearence. It’s not. My heartstopped when I first saw this happen.Worry not – the next coat offinish, be it linseed oil or sealer,will renew that great look.Glue stains or spots have atendency to show up during thestaining. You have two choices tofix this problem. First, as you areapplying the stain, you can grabyour sandpaper or sander, removethe spots immediately and continueto stain. But if you didn’tnotice the glue problem prior tothe stain drying, don’t try to sandor touch-up the area until you haveapplied a sealer coat over the dye.Trying to stain before the sealerwill result in a large halo aroundthe trouble spot because the surroundingarea will also stain.With the sealer applied youcan sand the problem spot, thenstain again to bring the area to amatching color. The sealer preventsany staining of the area surroundingthat which was sandeddown to the bare wood.Allow the newly stained pieceto dry thoroughly, then lightlyhand sand using #400-grit paperto knock down any raised grainthat didn’t get the hint in the wettingprocess. This is a step that canpresent a problem. If you sand toomuch you will sand through thestain. So don’t be aggressive.Give Your Finish DepthWhat’s next after the stain? Thatdepends on the hardwood selectedfor the project. If you are buildingwith a figured hardwood youshould add a coat of boiled linseedoil. This will soak into the figuredgrain and reflect the light, whichadds depth to the piece.A coat of boiled linseed oil is a great way to add depth to your finish. Makesure it is boiled (not raw) linseed oil. The raw will not dry properly.To apply, simply brush the oilonto the project and allow it tosoak for five minutes before wipingaway the excess. The more itsoaks in, the more of an effect willbe seen after you have the finishcomplete. Allow the oil to dry atleast 24 to 36 hours.If you don’t apply the BLOthere is no adverse reaction ornegative look to the piece, so it isyour choice. Make sure that youdispose of all oily rags in a propermanner. They are a fire hazard.Using the BLO dictates thenext step. Because lacquers do notadhere well to oil products (unlessgiven weeks to cure completely) itis necessary to seal the piece withsomething that will. Shellac is theanswer in my shop.In reading the various recipesgiven for the finishes of the bookprojects in “I Do It My Way” (page74), you’ll notice that shellac isused for a sealer coat and/or forWhether you are using it as a sealing coat or a topcoat, shellac is best whensprayed. The resulting surface will be smooth and make sanding for additionalcoats of finish much easier to complete.72Popular Woodworking April 2007

a topcoat finish depending onthe finish formula. In either caseyou apply the shellac in the samemanner.Spray the shellac mixed toa 1 1 ⁄ 2# cut. As a sealing coat, asingle coat of shellac is all that’sneeded. Sand the dried shellacwith a sanding pad for any flat surfacesand an abrasive pad for anymouldings. Using a sanding padreduces finger-friction heat so thefinish doesn’t gum up in the pad;the results are great.If you didn’t add a coat of boiledlinseed oil you have a choice tomake about the sealer. You can useshellac, as we have discussed, oranother option is lacquer sandingsealer, which is also sprayed overthe stained piece.The sanding sealer builds anice coating that powders wellas you sand and leaves a smoothsurface for your topcoats.Sand the sealer just as youwould the shellac; then you’reready for the topcoat. Eithermethod of sealing will work fine,but don’t use the lacquer productif you ultimately plan to finish thepiece with shellac.How About a Topcoat?In order to obtain an antiqueappearance for your furniture thereare two choices when selecting atopcoat. Either finish the projectwith shellac or apply a few coatsof lacquer.If you are completing the projectwith shellac you should spraytwo coats over the sealer coat ofshellac, allowing each to dry completely,before sanding. Next, addan additional two coats of shellac.A total of four topcoats will havethe proper build.Shellac has quite a sheenwhen applied to a project. Youneed to reduce the sheen for amore antique appearance and toinhibit showing any slight imperfectionsin your finish. To do thisuse #0000 steel wool and Behlen’sWool-Lube to rub out the piece.Mix the Wool-Lube with water tothin it a bit and rub the piece withthe steel wool dipped in the lube.A lot of elbow grease is neededfor this method and sometimesgetting into the small crevicesand around mouldings is a task,but the results will be an antiquedhand-rubbed appearance.If you’re hoping for a way toreduce that sheen without thetime and effort of hand rubbing– look to dull-rubbed effect lacquer.One coat over the sandedshellac and the result is a handrubbedsheen without all the extrahand work.If you are finishing the projectwith a lacquer topcoat, applythree or four coats over the sealer,allowing each coat to dry beforemoving forward.For most furniture, Sherwin-Williams Dull-rubbed Effectlacquer is the best choice (fewSherwin-Williams retailers carryit, but they can order it for you).For tabletops and other pieces thatwill see heavy use I would choose apre-catalyzed lacquer. The applicationof each is the same.The spraying of lacquer isstraightforward – an HVLP systemis highly recommended. Payattention to the application andkeep any runs or sags out of thepicture as these will need to beremoved after the surface is completelydry.Or There’s PaintTo apply an antique paint finishto pieces such as the New York/Canadian Stepback cupboard picturedon page 77, the first step isto go through the staining processas described above. On top of thestain add two coats of shellac. Ihave tried a single coat withoutgood results. Sand the shellacthoroughly before beginning topaint your surfaces.An old look for paint begins with a small amount of sawdust in the paint andthe mixture applied to the project. Work in small areas to keep the processfrom getting away from you as it dries.Use a wet cloth to wipe away paint in areas as the paint begins to dry. Try tobest simulate wear areas based on antique originals.If you are overzealous, which is easy to do, and clear too much paint from thepiece, simply go back and add additional paint to help bring the look back towhat you want.Use an Olde Century Colors( or anacrylic latex paint for this process.Pour paint into a can. You’llwant to separate some from theoriginal container, and add a smallamount of fine sawdust to the liquid.This may seem odd but thereis a method to this madness. Asyou spread the paint onto 73

surface, the granules will be distributedacross the piece.When the paint begins todry – timing this requires closeattention – take a wet cloth andrub the painted areas. The smallpieces of dust, as they are rolledand removed, will reveal thestained surface below. Continueto wipe away paint only in theareas where wear would typicallybe displayed.Don’t go overboard whensimulating wear. A little can go along way. And if you remove morepaint than you want, simply addpaint back onto the surface. Thistime don’t use the sawdust. Withpractice you can develop a talentand eye to achieve what appearsto be an old painted finish.Glaze for AgeGlaze is used to simulate years ofage and to even the tonal differencesin your work. The only differencebetween stain and glazeis that the glaze is sandwichedbetween two layers of finishwhereas stain is applied directlyto the raw wood. Any oil-basedstain can become a glaze if positionedcorrectly, but I use a productmade especially for glazing:Mohawk’s heavy-bodied glazingstain ( the shellac sealer smoothwith #320 grit. Remember: Lacquerand oil don’t play welltogether so use shellac, and placethe drawers, if there are any, intothe case. Spray a coat of glaze ontothe surface.As the glaze dries it will turnwhitish in color or flash (turnfrom wet to dry in sheen). Atthat time you need to wipe awaythe majority of the glaze, leavingheavy areas in recesses, corners oraround mouldings. Don’t worrythat you’re wiping away too much.The glaze will get into the shellacand make those tonal changes.When the surface is dry, after 24to 36 hours, apply another coat ofshellac to lock in the glaze.These processes, when appliedin proper order, can move you tothe next level in finishing yourmasterpieces. Give them a try andyou’ll not look back to those oldmethods any more. And be sure toshare your experiences with yourfellow woodworkers. PWI Do It My Way; You can TooI was never taught the process of finishing my furniture projects. Myfather and I worked through the mysteries surrounding this subjectusing a trial-and-error approach. I think the outcome of those trials,pictured on selections taken from my books, shows I must be doingsomething right – and I hope you agree. Follow the recipes and youtoo can stand back and look proudly at the results.A heavy-bodied glaze is the best choice to add years of time to your project.Any oil-based stain will work, but remember that it needs to be sandwichedbetween two layers of film finish to be called a glaze.Massachusetts High ChestFrom “Glen Huey’s Illustrated Guide to Building Period Furniture”Mahogany hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s Dark Antique Sheraton aniline dye.■2 Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.■3 Spray one coat of blonde shellac.■4 Sand with a 3M fine sanding sponge.■5 Apply a heavy-bodied glaze – Mohawk Van Dyke Brown.■6 Spray three coats of blonde shellac.■7 Rub out with #0000 steel wool and Behlen Wool-Lube.■8 Apply a coat of paste wax.■Photo by Tim Grondin74Popular Woodworking April 2007

Shaker Small Chestof DrawersFrom “Building Fine Furniture”Cherry hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s■Dark Wine Cherry anilinedye.2 ■ Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.3 ■ Spray one coat of Sherwin-Williams Lacquer SandingSealer (T60F64).4 ■ Sand with a 3M fine sandingsponge.5 ■ Spray three coats ofSherwin-Williams DullrubbedEffect Lacquer(T70F63).Photo by Al ParrishPennsylvaniaTall Case ClockFrom “Glen Huey’s Illustrated Guideto Building Period Furniture”Mahogany hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s Dark Wine■Cherry aniline dye.2 ■ Sand with #400-grit wet/drysandpaper.3 ■ Spray one coat of blonde shellac.4 ■ Sand with a 3M fine sandingsponge.5 ■ Spray three coats of Sherwin-Williams Dull-rubbed EffectLacquer (T70F63).Photo by Tim GrondinChippendaleEntertainmentCenterFrom “Fine Furniture for aLifetime”Flame or curly birch hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s■Golden Amber Maple anilinedye.2 ■ Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.3 ■ Spray one coat of Sherwin-Williams Lacquer SandingSealer (T60F64).4 ■ Sand with a 3M fine sandingsponge.5 ■ Spray three coats ofSherwin-Williams DullrubbedEffect Lacquer(T70F63).finishing■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ tip■ Make it a practice, when spraying multiple coats of finish, to changethe spray pattern of the nozzle with each coat – one with the fan horizontal,then one vertical. This method eliminates lapping lines.Photo by Al 75

Photo by Al ParrishPhoto by Al ParrishSlant-lid Desk on FrameFrom “Building Fine Furniture”Tiger maple hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s Golden Amber Maple aniline dye.■2 Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.■3 Apply a soaking coat of boiled linseed oil.■4 Rub with a maroon non-woven abrasive pad.■5 Spray four coats of blonde shellac.■6 Rub-out with #0000 steel wool and Behlen Wool-Lube.■7 Apply a coat of paste wax.■Shaker Sewing DeskFrom “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime”Tiger maple hardwood1 Spray a coat of Moser’s Golden Amber Maple aniline dye.■2 Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.■3 Apply a soaking coat of boiled linseed oil.■4 Rub with a maroon non-woven abrasive pad.■5 Spray one coat of blonde shellac.■6 Sand with a 3M fine sanding sponge.■7 Spray three coats of Sherwin-Williams Dull-rubbed Effect Lacquer■(T70F63).Seymour SideboardFrom “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime”Mahogany, tiger maple and walnut hardwoods1 Brush on four coats of oil/varnish mixture.■2 Apply a coat of paste wax.■finishing■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ tips■ Remove small sags or runs in your shellac using a single-edgerazor blade. Use the blade as you would a small scraper.■ Finishing the drawer box (with the exception of the front) willcause problems with operation. Also, future generations will notbe able to see any natural patina.■ Light or clear waxes will effectively remove dark waxes.Photo by Al Parrish76Popular Woodworking April 2007

New York/CanadianStepback CupboardFrom “Fine Furniture for a Lifetime”Painted pine1 Stain with Moser’s Golden Amber Maple aniline dye.■2 Sand with #400-grit wet/dry sandpaper.■3 Spray two coats of blonde shellac.■4 Sand with a 3M fine sanding sponge.■5 Apply a coat of acrylic latex paint with a little sawdust■added. I used Olde Century Colors in Yankee Blue.6 ■ Wipe paint to simulate wear.7 ■ Add a coat of dark brown Briwax.finishing■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ tips■ Raw linseed oil will not dry properly. Make sure touse the boiled product.■ The cut in shellac is the amount of shellac flakes, inweight, that is dissolved into a gallon of denaturedalcohol.■ If you elect to brush the shellac, use a good brush.The better the brush, the better the results.Photo by Al Parrish18th-century Hanging CupboardFrom “Building Fine Furniture”Walnut hardwood1 Spray four coats of garnet shellac, lightly sanded■between each coat.2 ■ Rub out with #0000 steel wool and Behlen Wool-Lube.3 ■ Apply a coat of paste wax.Photo by Al ParrishMassachusettsBlockfront ChestFrom “Glen Huey’s IllustratedGuide to Building PeriodFurniture”Cherry hardwood1 Stain with Moser’s Dark Wine■Cherry aniline dye.2 ■ Sand with #400-grit sandpaper.3 ■ Spray one coat of blondeshellac.4 ■ Sand with a 3M fine sandingsponge.5 ■ Apply a heavy-bodied glaze– Mohawk’s Van Dyke Brown.6 ■ Spray two coats of blondeshellac.7 ■ Sand with a 3M fine sandingsponge.8 ■ Spray three coats of Sherwin-Williams Dull-rubbed EffectLacquer (T70F63). pwPhoto by Tim 77

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