Preparing to Refinish; Perfection in Woodworking
Issue: Issue 324
Posted Date: 4/23/2013
Cleaning Old Finish
poster wondered what was the best way to clean cabinets before
applying a new finish. - Editor
new cabinets to go with existing painted oak cabinets. Customer wants
all painted to match. After checking old cabinets, they are filthy.
What's the best way to clean five-part panels to finish?" - G.P.
received suggestions for a few different options. - Editor
not high-tech, but it's always worked: Wipe everything down with a
rag dipped in naphtha -- it removes all the oil-based dirt. Then
wipe all surfaces down with rag dipped in solution of 1 gallon of
water and 2 capfuls of Dawn dishwashing soap. This removes any
water-based dirt and any remnants of oil-based dirt. I've tried using
ammonia instead of the water solution, but it's rough on the skin and
eyes." - Bob B.
an original coating is so degraded it requires a complete stripping.
It's not one of the cleanest jobs a finisher can perform, but in most
cases it guarantees that the new finish will perform at its best.
Lots of chemical strippers to choose from. Regardless of which one
you decide on, be sure to follow the instructions. You can run into
problems if all the old finish isn't thoroughly removed. If you
decide to remove the existing coating with a stripper, be sure to
clean and rinse all the stripping remnants (wax) as they will
interfere with drying and adhesion of your new coating. Prior to
jumping into a complete finish removal, follow the advice that Bob
posted. Once you have gone through those steps, apply your new
coating to the test piece. If it dries properly and you have no wet
spots or fish eyes or craters, you might be OK with applying the new
finish over the old." - Robert
like using TSP. It seems to take off all of the old grease and
furniture polish. You get it in the paint aisle at Home Depot®. TSP
stands for trisodium phosphate." - Jason S.
The original poster in this
discussion thread posed an interesting question about perfection in
woodworking: both seeking it, and whether it can be achieved. -
many of you make flawless projects? There must be some. That said,
when mistakes happen, when things don't go as planned, how do you
feel about it and what do you do? When it happens to me, I try to
learn from it. What happened? Why'd it happen? What could I do
different next time? How do I correct what happened? Each of those is
actually a story in itself. Is a new technique needed? A new tool?
How do you feel about it? Does learning from the mistake help? I'll
say this about my own projects. After it's done, I like some quite a
lot more than others depending on how many mistakes were made. Yet
anyone that sees any of them think they all look great. I can't help
but think some of them should be burned." - John P.
We've highlighted some of the
comments from the quite lengthy discussion. - Editor
don't dislike some of my projects because of craftsmanship problems,
but because of design problems. I design all my projects and some
just don't come out looking very good." - Mike H.
I made things for a living,my definition of perfection was when the
client was happy. Now in my hobby work I have time to get closer to
flawless work. Flawless is different than perfection for me. I can
make something like a table with no visible flaws. However, as the
designer, I may think later that a curve might look better if deeper.
Even then I don't think of the table as imperfect.The closest way to
get to perfection for me would be to build a design over and over and
refine it each time. Wood
shrinks and swells so that makes perfection elusive." - Andrew
produced some exquisite and exotic kindling. One step of my latest
build required three attempts. The amount of waste was minimal; it
was the setback in time that was disappointing. The end result is far
from perfect or flawless. However, I learned a lot from the build and
developed my skill set.In the end, even though the build was far from
perfect or flawless, I am satisfied with the results. I gave it my
best effort and learned a lot in the process. I avoided the 'That's
good enough' thoughts that have crept into previous builds." -
machine-made flat surfaces have changed perceptions about what a flaw
is. Anything flat and shiny can be deemed perfect even if it's
hideous. An understanding of the value of pattern, texture, allusion,
fitness for purpose, and what makes a good design is too rare. One
thing that could help is calling Post Modern design what it really
is: hodgepodge . Look at these public buildings with interior walls
made of squares of plywood made from one piece of wood. The day they
are finished, the architect will walk in and point to some flaw,
usually a fly. A perfect fly being blamed for a bad formulaic design.
Look at an ancient mosaic floor; not two pieces of tesserae are the
same but the floor is perfect." - Mel F.
be a top-notch woodworker, you must be the best at hiding your
mistakes. That being said, I used to get upset. Now I get a calm over
myself, take a short break and remind myself that this is where I
separate the good from the bad projects. The important thing is to be
sure you come away with a lesson. I don't always, but make the same
mistake 3 or 4 times and you (I) eventually stop making that mistake
and are a little bit better than you were before. Don't let the
mistakes get the best of you, let them make you better." - Bill
we're woodworkers, and most of us have said at some point 'I could do
that better.' That mentality makes perfection elusive." - Steve
once had a client who reprimanded me for seeking perfection. I worked
in his house for more than 2 years, so he saw me in action more than
most people. He told me that a characteristic of Oriental/Persian
carpets is that they all had a mistake somewhere or somehow
incorporated into the carpet. The humble thinking behind this was -
'Only God is Perfect.'
Even if you are an agnostic or an atheist it's a good perspective. I
often find myself laughing out loud on projects after striving to
bring all my years of trade craft and fastidious woodworking skills
to an aspect of my work I still fall on my face and get an open joint
or miss the big picture and do something first that should have been
third. Only God is perfect, I say, and commence to fixing my mistake.
Very often I am not laughing. You do your very best through every
phase of the project -- sometimes that is more than on other days --
and each step of perfection strived for will make the next step
towards perfection more possible. And yes, good woodworking also has
a feature of good fixing. Just the way it is." - Sam M.
or not it is a mistake depends on whether or not there are any
witnesses. If there are no witnesses, it may be joinery research or
it may be an architectural enhancement." - Roger R.
build for the sheer joy of building. I am sure that many people here
would recoil in horror at the imperfections in my work, and at my
blase attitude towards them. Do I always try to improve? Of course.
Do I care if it is perfect as long as it is functional and reasonably
good looking? Not a chance. This
keeps woodworking fun, inspirational, and relaxing for me." -
for woodworking, I think 'flawless' is a nebulous term related to
purpose of the item. Does the little speck of dust in the finish in
the corner on the underside of an end table matter? If it's for
personal use or built as a present for a relative or one of a run of
dozens, probably not. If it's a $100,000 commissioned piece by a
world-renowned artisan, then it probably does." - Jason R.
Since we know that surely
everyone reading this eZine is a perfect woodworker who never makes
mistakes, what would your hypothetical attitude be toward any
mistakes a hypothetical you might make on a project? - Editor