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Expert's Corner

The Exotic Vocabulary of French Polishing
One of the difficulties with learning to do French polishing is overcoming the exotic vocabulary that continues to be used by some: “charge the rubber,” “fad in,” “spirit off,” etc. This vocabulary was created by English craftsmen 200 years ago, brought to the United States, and used in most instructions since. I’ve always thought it [...]

The (Almost) Perfect Finish
Water-based finishes have improved quite a bit over the past few years – to the point where they make an excellent finish for just about every woodworker. In particular, they offer a lot of advantages for DIYers and hobbyist woodworkers, especially those working in small shops. You can use a water-borne finish in place of [...]

TIP: Pour Over to a Separate Container
Unless you plan on using all the finish in the original container, you should pour the amount you expect to use into a separate container – for example, a clean jar or coffee can. It’s good to do this so you don’t introduce dust or other contaminants into the finish that you will use at [...]

TIP: Brushing Onto a Vertical Surface
Here’s a trick for avoiding runs when brushing a finish onto a vertical surface. Brush back over the areas where the finish is so thick that it runs to pick up some of the excess with the brush’s bristles. Then wipe off this excess onto a clean cloth you hold in your other hand, as [...]

Wiping Off Excess Stain
The rule for applying stain successfully is to apply a wet coat and wipe off the excess before the stain dries. There’s no problem doing this with common oil-based wiping stains. They dry very slowly, so there’s plenty of time to get the excess wiped off before the stain dries. But water-based and lacquer stains [...]

Water Warps Wood Opposite From What You May Think
Water causes wood to swell, so most people think that wetting one side and not the other will cause the wetted side to bow – that is, increase in width so the center is higher than the edges. If the wood is thin enough, this will be the case initially. But the overall swelling or [...]

Remove Watermarks With Steel Wool
Watermarks can happen in all finishes after they have aged and become somewhat porous. The marks appear light gray to white and are almost always very superficial – that is, right at the surface of the finish. So one way to remove them that almost always works well is to abrade off the very top [...]

Finishes Differ in the Color They Impart
You might choose a finish for its durability, drying speed, ease of use or cost, but you might also choose for the color it imparts to the wood. The accompanying picture shows unfinished oak at the top left, then seven common finishes and their color. If you haven’t done this comparison side by side, you [...]

Applying Finish With or Across the Grain
It’s common to be instructed to apply a finish in the direction of the grain, called “with the grain.” Doing this is usually best when brushing a finish, but it’s rarely necessary when wiping or spraying a finish. Brushing with the grain is best because the grain will help disguise the brush marks, the ridges [...]

Solving a Sticky Problem: Tools and Tricks to Deal with Glue Squeezeout
If you’ve never had the experience of applying the first coat of finish to a project and having some of the finish fail to “take” because glue has sealed the wood grain underneath, go read something else.  What follows is intended for the vast majority of woodworkers who have encountered this problem. Most often this [...]

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