Monday, April 22, 2013

The Finish --- Last Thing Applied but First Thing Noticed

Final Coat Comparison
     As a teacher I'd always stress to my students the importance of taking their time on the finishing process of whatever project they were working on.  My standard reply to their questions about having sanded or worked the oil "enough" was something like: "A excellent finish can make an average project shine but a poor finish can make an excellent project become average."  You can prove this for yourself if you observe people at a furniture store or woodworking show.  Inevitably, the first thing most do is to touch the wood.  I've shared my finish process before on the blog and with countless fellow woodworkers.
     These lids are made of Alder with a lift made of Zebrawood.  The process begins with an initial coat of Watco Danish Oil which is allowed to penetrate into the wood but then I use wet/dry sandpaper to work it into the pores.  It is then completely wiped dry.  A note on the Watco Oil, due to ongoing EPA regulations and VOC compliant rules it is not the same as it was 40 years ago!  From what I've been told by Rustoleum, product shipped to California, some mid-west states, and most of the New England region have been modified to meet those regulations.  Since Las Vegas is right next door to California I'm pretty sure that the oil I buy at Home Depot is blended for California.  It works different, smells different, and just has a different feel to it.  I'm planning to order from Woodworkers Supply out of New Mexico to get the original formula in quarts.  Gallons all have the reformulation but quarts destined for the homeowners doesn't in some areas.  I'm hoping that New Mexico is one of those areas but, sorry; I digress!
     The initial oil dries overnight and then the hand finishing begins.  I use a 3, equal parts mixture of polyurethane, boiled linseed oil, and turpentine which is wet sanded in and wiped completely dry.  Starting with 320 grit, next comes 400, and finally 600 grit.  Each coat is allowed to dry overnight and I do not do the interiors of boxes or cabinets with it.  The question that I usually get is how many coats, well; that depends!  The lid on the left has some interesting grain that soaked up the finish so needed more than the rest of the box.
     The final application is done with a piece of old Levi's.  You use just a very small amount of the top coat and it is rubbed and burnished onto the wood and then dried with an old towel.  This finish has the feel and look that is hard to put into words but I know that my clients have always loved it.  This is the final blog on the box headed up to Toronto.  It's lid is the one on the right, the left lid is for the box going onto the Etsy store once I get it listed later today.

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