Reply by CueballRosendaul

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Posted on General finishing advice

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484 posts in 2165 days

#1 posted 08-02-2012 05:41 PM

I feel your pain and confusion. I used to hate finishing and was terrible at it. I have dozens of sample boards that I sanded and finished the same as I would any actual project. I write on the edge exactly what I did including the last sanding step, how many coats, stain, polyurethane, even dry times or steel wool in between. I didn’t make them all at once, but rather as I was building various projects. Another way to do sample finishes is to finish shop made jigs and fixtures as actual projects doing the same process and writing it on the piece. By now I must have 50 different finish examples.

Recently I bought about 20 different stains in little cans so I could have more variety on hand. My favorite clear finishes, whether over stain or just bare wood, are a gloss spray lacquer by Rustoleum because it looks good and is very fast and easy or a water based poly. Right now I’m still using some poly leftover from refinishing a hardwood floor and realize that its a very hard and durable finish. In addition, you can apply several coats in one day because it dries in less than an hour. The only thing to remember about any water based finish is to raise the grain of the wood before finish with a damp cloth, then hitting gently with a piece of 220. This gets rid of the fuzz that will raise up from the water in the poly. After a couple coats, then I use a green scratch pad or a piece of 000 steel wool to smooth it out and a few more coats of poly. It sprays very well when thinned with water as well.

You mentioned shellac, tung oil, and danish oil, all of which I have used. Tung oil is nice and simple and works well on cherry, poplar, and soft maple, but I haven’t had good luck with it on harder woods. It can also be funny on highly figured woods where it soaks in better on some spots than others. Most of my projects need more protection than just a few coats of oil, and I don’t have the patience for it and the other finishes.

There is a FWW book on finishing you can find on amazon if you search for Taunton Press finishing. I’m sure you could find it at the library as well. My local library has a great selection of such books. At the end of the day though, it’s trial and error, but writing it down so you can duplicate results.

-- Matt CueBall Rosendaul. I don't think I've ever had a cup of coffee that didn't have cat hair or sawdust in it.

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