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Expert's Corner

How to Fail Less at Finishing
This time of year (summer and fall), I spend a lot of my professional time cleaning up previous finishers messes – mostly on exteriors. If you engage in the act of finishing at any kind of level, even if just a few meaningful times a year, then you definitely understand that the proof is in [...]

TIP: Use Wood Conditioner to Reduce Blotching in Softwoods
Products sold as wood conditioner are washcoats usually made from varnish, though I have seen at least one that is an oil/varnish blend. A washcoat is a finish thinned to five-to-ten percent solids with the appropriate thinner. (Finishes are generally supplied with 20-to-30 percent solids.) In industry, the finish used is usually lacquer thinned with [...]

TIP: Lacquer Over Glaze
As long as you are using a spray gun for application and lacquer for your finish, you don’t have to let an oil-based glaze dry overnight before applying the finish. You can do it fairly quickly, without problems. The trick is to mist some thinned lacquer onto the glaze after the thinner in the glaze [...]

TIP: Understanding Furniture Care Products
Making a decision which furniture care product to use or recommend can seem impossibly confusing if you listen to advertising or read labels. But if you separate the products into four categories for what they do, they are understandable, and you can make an intelligent choice. The four categories are clear, emulsion (milky white), silicone [...]

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 [...]

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