How Can I Make Tack Rags?

How Can I Make Tack Rags?

How can I make my own tack rags? I have the cheesecloth, but need to know what to coat it with to effectively remove dust prior to applying finishes. – Darrel Mathieu

Chris Marshall: While pre-made tack cloths/rags are impregnated with a varnish-like substance that pulls dust off the wood and stays tacky, Michael Dresdner, who writes our “Finishing Thoughts” department in the print magazine, doesn’t use them. His solution is super simple: he just dampens a cotton cloth with a little water and uses that as a tack cloth. That way, it can be laundered and reused again and again, and you don’t need to treat it with anything special.

I don’t use tack cloths. I vacuum with a brush attachment after sanding the raw wood for the last time. Then, I vacuum between each coat of finish that gets any additional de-nibbing or light sanding. Vacuuming removes all the dust I can detect, so tack cloths have never really seemed necessary. And, if you’re working with open-pored woods like oak, ash or mahogany, a tack cloth won’t remove all the dust down deep in those pores. A shop vacuum will, so it might actually be the better solution anyway.

Tim Inman: Tack rag recipes are abundant in old books and on the web. They are essentially a little varnish and solvent mixed into a lint-free cloth. Something to make the rag “sticky” so it will capture and hold dust, etc.

Commercially made tack rags are often made sticky with wax. This can cause more problems than they do good. Remember, if you make your own tack rag, keep it sealed in an airtight jar. Oil/varnish on a rag can be a source of auto-ignition!


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