What Are Your Favorite Finishes?

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

Three Fast Finishes


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.

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Fast Finish for Dentil Molding

Mounting the blank of dentil on-edge to a scrap base allows gravity to take care of excess finish and hold it while it dries. Brush it on liberally and don't worry about it.

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!)

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A Better Way to Brush Poly

There's no cheaper brush for poly than an old tee shirt and a binder clip.

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.

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