Whenever I have to spray fast-drying lacquer in the summer, I gird myself for blush. I’m sure you’ve encountered blush. It’s that whitish haze that looks like thin clouds trapped in the finish, and usually shows up when spraying during humid weather.
When things are going well, shellac and lacquer both dry very quickly because they cure strictly by having their solvent evaporate, and because very fast evaporating solvents are used in them. Normally, of course, that’s wonderful; I can spray quickly and have the piece dry quickly, a boon for those of us with less time than ambition.
The sun is out and the air is dry with barely a breeze to be felt. Yep, it’s the perfect weather for spraying finish, both solvent-based and water-based.
Winter mounts all sorts of obstacles to spraying. It’s too cold and windy to do it outdoors, and to spray safely indoors, you’ll need lots of temperate moving air to evacuate the overspray and keep both you and your projects in a healthy flow of clean air. Do that and you’ll quickly deplete the very expensive heat your household furnace has generated. It’s a real dilemma since most spray finishes, and especially water-based ones, are pretty persnickety when it comes to temperature.
The arrival of hot, dry weather reminds me that, though it may be tedious to work in, it’s perfect for the annual drudgery of the deck. Dry heat is aces both at quickly evaporating water used to clean and prepare the deck, and at curing the finish.
In my case, annual is an exaggeration because I don’t get to the deck every year. In fact, I’ve let it go so long that the finish has now given way to a piebald mess of dirt, mildew and bleached gray planks. No matter; it’s easy enough to rejuvenate.
Whether we like the process of finishing or not, no woodworking project is really complete without slathering on some protective finish. Years ago, I was a “poly” only kinda guy. Back in the 1980s, oil-based polyurethane is pretty what seemed to fill the hardware store shelf under the “Wood Finishes” sign. So, that’s what I used. It smelled bad and dried slowly, but once the finish finally hardened up, it was fairly tough. And I could count on its consistency and characteristics every time.
I’m glad to say that my finishing palate has expanded some since then. Continue reading
I just wrapped up a project made from almost five sheets of plywood. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of surface area to cover with finish. And, here in the North Country, we’re still in the “deep freeze,” so all of my shop windows and doors are closed up tight. Good ventilation was going to be a challenge during finishing. I also needed to complete the entire finishing process in the shop, which definitely isn’t a “clean room” situation. It’s dusty, especially with the furnace running. So, I knew I’d need a fast-drying finish, too. At least that would help cut down on the magnetic effect that wet finish seems to have on dust and grit.
Three finishes that deliver at crunch time: shellac, spray lacquer and water-based poly.
It’s T-minus ten days till Christmas Eve. How are your gift projects coming along? If you’re planning to finish them with oil-based poly, you’ve still got time for it to dry. But, a week from now? No way.
Nothing says “I waited too long” more than a present that smells like wet varnish.
Now, I’m not advocating “eleventh-hour” finishing…but it can happen. So, if you need a contingency plan, let me suggest three wood finishes to turn to when time is running out. You’ll still come out the hero on Christmas morning.
Mounting the blank of dentil on-edge to a base allows gravity to take care of the excess finish and hold it while the piece dries. Brush the finish on liberally and don't worry about it.
By now you may have read my Dentil Picture Frame article that’s running in the fold-out portion of the December 2009 issue (page 23). But, I wasn’t able to tell you everything I wanted to about the project…our pages will only fit so much.
So, for those of you who may have one of these frames earmarked for the holiday project gift list, here’s a little trick I used for finishing the maple dentil. Before I ripped the larger blank into narrower strips, it seemed like a smart time to apply finish. That way, I knew I could avoid having to pull excess finish out of the recess where the dentil sets into the frame. It was definitely the right call here. (I try to dodge every finishing headache I can!)
Theres no cheaper brush for poly than an old tee shirt and a binder clip.
Leave it to Norm Abram to come up with a better way to apply polyurethane. Have you seen him use a big binder clip and a piece of old tee-shirt? If that doesn’t show Yankee frugality, I don’t know what does. But, you know what, it’s an amazingly good applicator. In fact, it’s become my favorite way to apply poly (wiping it on is my next).
If you haven’t seen him use the clip method, here’s how it works: Cut a strip of cotton tee shirt about 3″ wide and maybe 10” to 12” long. There’s no absolute here…just cut an ample-sized piece. Colored or white both work fine, as long as the shirt is well worn. Fold the long ragged edges in, then fold the whole thing up on itself lengthwise several times to create a pad that’s about 2” x 2”. Clamp the open side of the pad into a 2” office binder clip. That’s it. You’ve got a bristle-less brush in about a minute flat.
Here's a blazing-fast, totally forgiving finish to remember next December 23rd, when you desperately need it: Deft in a can.
This past Christmas, I fell victim to an all-too-common seasonal disorder among woodworkers: gift-making procrastination.
Heard of it? If you haven’t—or haven’t caught it yet—you haven’t been woodworking long enough.
In my own defense, it wasn’t complete negligence … the gifts were assembled and the glue was dry; they just weren’t finished. So there I was, T-minus two days till gift opening and not an ounce of finish applied to my projects. To make matters worse, these were two little jewelry boxes intended for my school-age daughters. “Nearly done” wasn’t going to cut it. Once the packages were opened, I’d never get those boxes out of their clutches for a topcoat. And, my wife was counting on me getting these buggers under the tree in time. I promised. But, aside from a certain spousal pressure, I also just couldn’t live with them dry. That’s just not how a respectable woodworker does things, right?
Murphy could be my next-door neighbor, because his Law was in full effect. My shop was busy with other things, magazine related. Wet, slow-drying finish wasn’t going to work this time. It would have to be easy to apply, fast-drying and cured by St. Nick’s arrival. What could I do?
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Here's my sad excuse for sandpaper organization. Amazing it lasted this long!
Aside from being a dull-as-dirt photograph, this empty box is not:
A) Evidence of my secret stash of cookies. I don’t have one, but if I did squirrel away a few boxes in the shop, they’d be Thin Mints. No question.
B) A rough idea of how many boxes of Girl Scouts Cookies® my kids have eaten this spring, although it’s probably pretty close.
C) Some sad prototype for my next Woodworker’s Journal project.
Actually, this Thin Mints carton, circa 2001, has been my poor excuse for sandpaper storage. Tattered, taped up and tossed around the shop, it’s been a dumping ground for the past eight years.